Networking Doesn’t Have To Be Scary
SUZANNE HAGA, WEOC COORDINATOR
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Fort Wayne offers many networking events. For example, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. offers Meet Me at 5:05. My personal favorites are the Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center’s events and The NIIC’s Ideas@Work annual, signature event. Networking is built into these events. For some, networking is looked at as a great way to gain connections to others in the community, tell others about their business and simply to get to know others. For some, it is a daunting activity that is dreaded, stressful, and avoided.
For entrepreneurs, networking is extremely important. Knowing other people and being able to tell them about your business and learn about theirs can help build your business. I recently met with a budding entrepreneur who, when I approached the subject of networking, became wide-eyed and fearful. She said she preferred not to, that it was scary for her to have to talk to other people. She felt like they would judge her and her business idea. I agree that networking can be scary, but there are ways to overcome your fears.
1. Decide on a certain number of people to introduce yourself to before you go. You don’t have to get to know EVERYONE in the room. Do set the number of people you will absolutely talk to. I recently attended an event and decided that I would make two new connections. I purposely sat by two people I didn’t know and chatted with them before the event and during breaks.
2. Think of networking as a time to connect the people that you already know with the people that you meet. During an event last year, I met someone who needed help with marketing her business. We chatted about what she had already tried and I connected her with someone who I knew could help her with the marketing initiative she wanted to focus on. Being able to make this connection made me feel glad that I had attended the event.
3. Have 3 key questions in mind that you will ask of those you meet. Rather than trying to think quickly on your feet, think of the questions you’d like to know about people before speaking with them. What do they do? What do they like about what they do? Why did they decide to become an entrepreneur? Knowing what questions you will ask takes the pressure off of you to relax and actively listen to what the other person is saying to you.
Networking takes practice, just like anything else you want to do well at. The more you practice, the better you will become!