Networking Is So Lame: How to Make Connections That Don’t Waste Your Time and Actually Benefit Your Business

Networking.  Why does it always seem so lame?  A bunch of people in a room trying to connect and figure out if they can help each other out.  Receptions offer limited time, so your goal is to determine fairly quickly if talking to someone is worth your time or if you need to move onto the next person.  And then sometimes you get stuck in those dreaded conversations with people you don’t really want to talk to, but just can’t seem to find a polite way to get away from.  Um … I think I’ll go get another drink.  Great, I’ll join you … Ah, perfect!  Damn!  Foiled again.

It’s kind of like freshman year for adults—everyone’s a little awkward, except for that one guy who is totally running for Rush Chair of his fraternity (Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman, damn glad to meet you). 

And if you’re not careful you can pack on 15 lbs. from eating all that bad reception food and drink.  So fun!

Unfortunately, networking and creating relationships are what business is all about.  So, networking isn’t something you can skip out on.  Building true business relationships isn’t done in 30 seconds while standing around with a drink in your hand.  There’s got to be another way!

I’ve found 3 ways that turn networking on its head.  If you’ve reached the point of never wanting to attend another reception again, keep reading …

Be the Main Attraction

Being the main attraction means the following:

Speaking to a group

Teaching a course, seminar or class

Participating in a panel discussion

Basically, doing anything where you are considered an expert and people are attending the event to see you.  Being the main attraction is my #1 way to effectively network—because it works!

As a fitness studio owner, there are many ways we can create opportunities to become the main attraction at an event.  I recently spoke to The Professional Women of Winston-Salem, where I talked about the importance of building a great team to help you run your business and discussed several reasons why we, as business owners, don’t act quickly to hire employees—I call it the Employee Risk Myth.  Check out @shesonhertoes on Instagram for a video clip.

This was a great opportunity because everyone attending the event was interested in hearing what I had to say.  I had a captive audience interested in my business and the message I was delivering.  To turn this into an opportunity to attract more clients to my business my manager, Emily, and I did the following:

We got everyone’s contact information:  By holding a drawing for 1 free month of Pure Barre classes, we were able to collect about 40 names, emails, and phone numbers that we can follow up with in the next few weeks.  It’s January!  If you’re wanting to workout, this is a great month to start, so our odds of getting these women in the studio to give Pure Barre a try are pretty good.

We told everyone what our goal was:  In my speech, I worked in some great language telling everyone that our goal was to get them all signed up for their first class before leaving.  And we didn’t quite get all of them, but we signed up about 10 women with about another 10 wanting to look at the schedule on their own time.  Wow!  Half the group was eager to convert.  And … we made a contact to schedule another event where Pure Barre will be the main attraction.  Did I mention, we can still contact all the others in attendance, because we got their information?  #winning

Here we are … waiting for everyone to rush the table and start the year off committed to fitness!

She's On Her Toes Networking

When you’re the main attraction, you get to run the show.  You can easily introduce yourself to everyone—they are all there to meet you.  You can get contact information to thank them for attending and invite them to try out your business.  And you can explain why you’re there in the first place, what your goal is—and it’s amazing, people will help you reach that goal.

Join a Mastermind Group

A mastermind group can take many forms.  Some are paid, some are free.  But they all seek to provide members with a way to meet, share ideas, and learn from each other in business.  The concept of a mastermind group was created by Napoleon Hill in his book, Think and Grow Rich, which is a She’s On Her Toes must read, as well as the more modern Think and Grow Rich for Women.  Check them out below:

Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill ($11.41):  While you might be tempted to skip this book and just read the newer, modern, more woman-focused Think and Grow Rich for Women, you’d really miss out.  This is a classic business book that almost every successful business mind has read.  I think it really emphasizes the point that the fundamentals are long-lasting and always the first place to start when looking to build or grow any business—whether it was back in 1937 or at the present in 2018.

 Think and Grow Rich for Women, Sharon Letchter ($14.17):  I really enjoyed hearing Sharon Lechter speak and her book was just as insightful.  When Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in 1937, he included 13 Steps to Success—but at that time all the major business minds and heads of companies were men.  Sharon goes through each of the 13 Steps and applies them to the lives of modern women.  I love her concept of living “one big life” instead of trying to find the elusive “work-life balance” that never quite seems attainable.  A must-read!

But back to masterminds and how they can help you network … joining a group of like-minded business professionals can really help you out in your own business.  One of the reasons traditional networking (think wearing a name tag at a reception) just doesn’t work for everyone is that not everyone in attendance is of the same like-mind as you.

In order to get the most out of attending events and interacting with people, they all have to be on the same page as you.  That’s why masterminds can be so effective—everyone in attendance is usually there to help each other, make connections, and simply get help solving business problems.  The whole “two heads are better than one” and “sometimes you need to step back from the problem” philosophies at their best.

Take Matters into Your Own Hands

In this world of trying to amass the most followers and likes, it’s easy to dismiss the value of a single relationship.  In networking, quantity means nothing.  It’s the quality of your business relationships that matter.  Instead of relying on receptions and networking events hosted by others, take matters into your own hands and simply invite the person or people you want to meet to meet with you.  What?!  Actually, reaching out to someone and inviting them to meet you?!  It’s so crazy, it just might work.

Since everyone’s time is valuable, it’s important to explain why meeting with you would help the other person.  You’ll have to do a little research …

What is their business mission?

Do they support any charities?

Do you both have similar interests?

Figuring out how you can add value to what they’re doing can generally help you secure a meeting.  Who knows, maybe this person has been wanting to get together with you too?!

If you’ve found networking lame and a huge waste of time in the past, it’s time to look at other ways to make quality business connections.  Attending events where you and your business are the main attraction, joining a mastermind group, and then simply working to cultivate quality relationships one meeting at a time can help you build a better network that will help support your business.  Think beyond lame receptions and evaluate attending events where you know you’ll meet other like-minded business owners and quality leads.

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