Most organizations (especially small businesses) attribute much of their business to word of mouth. At a certain point in your growth, you will have exhausted your personal network and will need connections to new and interesting colleagues to help you discover new inspiration and opportunity. Many people dread networking, but it doesn't have to be miserable. When did networking become fun for me? When I realized that networking isn't just about finding new clients, but instead about building trust, creating long-term relationships and discovering new opportunities.
Where should you be networking? Everywhere. As Tom Farley, President NYSE, described to Fortune: "The most successful people that I’ve met have the broadest and most interesting range of networks spanning industries, occupations, geographies and ideologies."
If you want to start off in the industry, there are great networking options created specifically for food, fitness, and wellness professionals, such as: Body Local in New York City, IDEA conferences, Food and Tech Connect, The Holistic Chamber of Commerce and many more.
As you extend beyond the food, fitness and wellness industries, be sure to check out BNI (most chapters will let you join as a guest a couple of times), Network after Work and your local Chamber of Commerce. I find Meetup and Eventbrite to be exceptional tools for finding networking opportunities in most areas.
There are also a growing number of digital networking opportunities: Join Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, or a membership-based digital community like Dreamers // Doers or VIXEN.
Think outside the box: volunteer, join a sports league, dance class or sign up for a continuing education course.
A few concepts that changed my personal perspective on networking:
- Show interest in the work of the people you meet. Forget about what you're up to for a minute. Showing genuine interest in the work of others is the best way to make connections. This approach also takes the pressure off of trying to achieve something with each conversation.
- Don't feel like you need to close a sale every time you attend a networking event. Networking is often about gaining the trust of people who will eventually become enthusiastic to share your story with their communities. No question that these types of relationships take more to develop than a brief and awkward encounter at a cocktail party.
- If you are going to make an ask, make sure you are asking the right person and be super clear about what you are asking for. Example: if your service is specifically targeting pregnant women, don't try to sell the 21 year old single associate at the bar. Once you find your relevant and captive audience. Tell them exactly what you are asking of them and why they will get value out of making the commitment. e.g. "I have an event for soon-to-be mothers coming up this Saturday. If you sign up, you will learn accupressure techniques that will relieve the stresses of being pregnant and diminish nausea from morning sickness.
These tips are just scratching the surface of the joy of networking, please feel free to share your own favorite networking groups and resources in the comments below.
If you’re so excited that you think every professional that you know should have access to this information, then make sure to share this with a friend.