Our fascination with the internetz is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the great, BIG world-wide web allows us as small biz people, mompreneurs, women in business, or whatever you refer to yourself as something paramount: Access to contacts, companies and brands on a HUGE national scale. We can look up information and email, tweet, link-in, and like others far and wide. We can even do all this in our jammies from our home office if we want.
This is where the problem comes in…If we endlessly chat online in our jammies and never take those relationships any further, what is the point? Lately, I hear comment after comment on how we need to unplug, get offline, stop tweeting. Well, I disagree. We don’t need to stop. We just need to add face-to-face networking to the mix. Powering down for at least an hour or two or a day and going out of our way to meet other small business people face-to-face is a must to move our online connections forward.
Nothing beats listening to someone else, asking questions, and getting to know each other in person in order to foster relationships.
(I know this adds the elements of geography and cost to the equation, but there is nothing wrong with branching out on a local level first.)
One way of securing the IRL (In Real Life) effect is showing up at a conference.
This is a great way to meet a number of people in your industry or the vertical you are potentially interested in. You just need to swap your jammies for something business casual – not even a suit and get yourself out there. You will put a face with a name of someone you met online and meet all new people. These women or men you meet have potential to be mentors, advisors, collaborators and referrers.
You can start with a local conference or dive right in and hit a larger, national-type conference. It really doesn’t matter where or when, you just need to go because A.) If you stay in your pj’s too long, you will never want to get out of them and B.) We are all real, live people behind our avatars and profile pics, and to get to the real depths of who we are, we need to meet face-to-face and network our tushies off to be successful.
No matter where you pick to attend a gathering, networking event, or conference…
Here are a few (funny but very sincere) tips for networking at a conference:
- Smile on the inside and out. Of course, everyone will tell you to put a smile on your face, but what about when you open your mouth to talk? Make sure your true, awesome personality comes through. Be true to character, don’t act fake and phony, but definitely make certain to shine in your own way not just with sparkly white teeth.
- A smile is only as good as the smell behind it. As long as we are talking about opening your mouth to chat, let’s make sure your breath is fresh! I am a big fan of Listerine and always carry a mini-bottle in my purse for quick swishes on bathroom breaks, but gum, mints, breath strips all work great. Keep something on hand – just saying.
- Fashion a conversation piece onto yourself. Wear something bright, a big pin, and checkered scarf, or leopard shoes. Something to make you easy to remember. Remember me? I was the one with the leopard skirt that matches my business cards? Get the drift?
- Opposites attract. Go over to someone who doesn’t look like someone you normally would, well, go over to and strike up a conversation. You may find that you either have a ton in common OR complement each other is a very positive way. Holding different strengths is a very good thing when it comes to those you partner or bounce ideas off of in biz.
- Don’t stare at the other person’s chest! I am being for real. Make eye contact with the person you are talking to and don’t spend the whole time looking at their name tag fastened at boob level. That’s just plain uncomfortable, and doesn’t give the impression that you are really interested in anything they are saying.
Of course, the very first step is stepping our of your jammies and getting out the door.
Do you have anything you would add to the list?