Watching The Great British Bake Off got me thinking about how networking is a bit like showcasing your best bakes. You want to perform consistently well, highlighting your skills and developing a powerful connection with people who get a taster of your deliciously impressive business.
It doesn’t matter if your signature dish is a Bakewell Tart or an Olive Focaccia, it’s much easier to give people an insight into your unique business if you follow a tried and tested recipe.
So, what are the key ingredients for effective networking? I’ve picked my top five……
- Get prepared: Give yourself plenty of time and space to plan ahead. As well as the basics of getting there on time etc, think about something really specific that you what you want to get out of it. For example, who do you want to connect with? What’s the key message you want to deliver? How can others help you this month?
- Give a showstopping pitch: This is your opportunity to wow people by serving your winning dish. You can get really creative here with props, photographs and stories to bring your business to life. Think about your strongest products and services and give people a taste of what you do and how you could help them. Don’t try to cram too much into your 60 seconds – simplicity with a touch of creativity often wins the day.
- Create a stir: What will make you memorable and get people to take action after the meeting has finished? Launching a special event, giving people a printed flyer, or following up with an email to arrange a 1-2-1, are just some of the ways you can remind people about your business and keep building those connections.
- Offer an extra slice: What can you do to support members and add value to your group? Could you make some introductions to people you know? What visitors could you bring? How about running a workshop on a specialist area of expertise? The more you put into networking, the more you will get out of it.
- Embrace the Technical Challenge: One of the best bits about networking is the opportunity to build your skills as well as your connections. Being part of a group of supportive businesswomen, is the perfect environment to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Give yourself permission to try something new in your pitch, or test out your messaging with people you trust. Try to grasp every opportunity you can for self-development by taking part in workshops, training and events. If you focus on personal growth, your business is more likely to flourish as a result.
From my point of view, there’s no such thing as providing a pre-packed, ready-made solution to growing your business. You can’t just turn up to a networking meeting and expect the business to flow. After all, creating a magnificent cake involves more than buying some flour, eggs, butter and sugar! WIBN’s trusted format creates the right environment but you have to put in effort and commitment to get the best results.
Across my groups, I see the success of sprinkling these ingredients into your networking approach. Members win business, grow in confidence and build long-lasting support networks. And it’s sometimes the people who struggled most in the beginning with shyness or a lack of confidence, that go on to be the most brilliant Star Networkers. In my eyes, that’s worth a special handshake, any day of the week!