Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Anti-Networker's Guide to Networking

I'm probably not the only person in the world who isn't crazy about networking. Seriously...put me in a networking event, and chances are I'll be the one camped out by the chips and dip, conspicuously not talking to people. Don't get me wrong; I love to socialize, meet new people and talk about my work. But what makes me uncomfortable is socializing with an agenda. Still, we all have to do it if we want to get to the next level. Here are a few tricks I've learned that have helped me get out there and talk to people.

Remember: you're not being smarmy. You're talking about your passion. This is the biggest thing I have to remind myself every time I'm at a networking event: I'm not selling. Selling has a bad reputation among creative types, I believe; when I sell in writing, I'm simply telling readers why whatever I'm selling is worthwhile. But in person, I feel fake when I try to sell myself.

But I love to talk about what I do. In a no-pressure social situation, I will talk all night about my job to anyone who's interested. I love explaining how web copywriting works and how I can help clients succeed, and I've landed new clients this way. In a networking event, I have to repeat to myself that I'm not selling and there's no ulterior motive here; there's just a room full of people who are interested in what I do and want to hear all about it.

Have a pitch ready. It really helps to know how to describe yourself. I just attended a 15 Second Pitch workshop with Laura Allen, who discussed how a concise pitch can land you huge opportunities in seconds. To break it down to its component parts, a good pitch contains:

1. An introduction: who you are and the name of your company;

2. What you do;

3. Why you're the best at it (your USP);

4. A call to action.

Simple, right? We write this kind of thing every day in various promotional materials. Why not create one for yourself?

Be prepared. I always forget business cards. I've got a huge new box of them sitting on my desk and they've been there for months. I never remember to bring them anywhere with me, and I'm always running into people who ask for my card. It's gotten so bad I think I'm doing it on purpose. Maybe it's because subconsciously I think the design isn't that great or the tagline I wrote on the cards is a bit cheesy. But they're not doing a good job selling me in the box.

Networking can be intimidating--especially for writers, who often prefer to work alone. But if you're willing to do it, you could land some new business--so it's worth getting good at it.


Matt Ambrose said...

Networking is a necessary evil. We'd like to think we can just put up a website and they will come. But I find most of my regular clients are those I've met in person.

Jennifer Escalona said...

You are so right about networking making you feel smarmy. More than once I've found myself at a networking event talking to all the other creative types, most of which will never actually have the chance to hire me because they are there looking for their own work. We end up talking because we're talking about our passions! Luckily, these creatives I've made have become good friends and have even led me to jobs, but my point is that I'm going to remember your advice next time. Marketing is not about selling yourself, it's about talking about your passion and how you can help others. That's SO much less intimidating.

Shabsblog said...

Nice blog, i liked your writing style!

Unknown said...

LOL! I'm with you on leaving the business cards behind. Rarely do I have one handy when I need it! It's frustrating.

I don't look at networking as socializing with an agenda. I look on it as socializing. :) I'm not one to walk up to anyone and "sell" them on my services. If they ask, I tell them (and I'm thrilled for the 15 second pitch idea! Thank you!). I'm about meeting people, not meeting people whom I have to convince to use my services.

Besides, I tell them I work for insurance pubs and they start looking for the chips and dip. Hey, maybe we should team up - I repel them, you reel them in! LOL

negevwriting said...

Amen on sharing your passion. Thats what makes you a person and not a salesperson. People want to do business with other people, not robots.
I rarely network, so you should probably take this with a very large grain of salt, but here's my networking philosophy: Turn it into a game. How many cards can I get today? How many names can I remember? Go with a friend for support and see who can meet more people. Etc. It's a fun way of turning an uncomfortable experience into something a bit more palatable. Our nervousness is disarmed and we are able to loosen up. But stay professional!