When it comes to growing your business, we all know that networking is where it’s at. After all, networking increases your visibility and helps you to find new customers. But that little n-word can strike terror into many people’s hearts! If you’re one of those otherwise happy, confident, life-loving people that just doesn’t like walking into a room full of strangers, read on! Networking makes many people feel anxious. Maybe it’s the image of a room full of self-absorbed, career-climbers munching on canapés, smiling and slapping one another on the back. It all feels a bit fake, a bit transactional.
But networking isn’t about peddling a superficial image of yourself, it’s about building up relationships. In this month’s Inspired, we’re profiling two women’s networks here in Northern Ireland that will help you to build some great relationships. Whether you’re a seasoned networker or just feel ‘ick’ at the thought, we guarantee that AWE NI or Lean In will help you to become part of something bigger than yourself. Please reach out with your thoughts through our Facebook page or website, and we hope to meet you in person online or at an event soon!
Camilla and Sarah
Five Networking Tips
Here are our five top tips to get the most out of every networking event:
- Develop a 20 second ‘elevator pitch’ to describe what you do in an easy-to-understand way. This really helps to open a conversation with the person that you’re meeting.
- #giversgain When you someone new, tune in to what they’re saying. Is there some way that you can help them? Or maybe, there is someone you know that can help them? Relationships are reciprocal. Anna Macauley, the Savvy Retailer said it best, ‘For many years I used to attend events and use them as hunting ground for new contacts or clients – then I realised that if everyone actually went with the idea of giving, someone, somewhere would have something to give to me that I needed. ‘
- Set networking goals. Do think about what you want to get out of your networking activity, and set goals for each event that you attend. This might be as simple as asking two people you meet to follow you on Facebook or as specific as getting to speak with one person that you know will be attending.
- Less is more. Networking takes time. You’ll achieve your goals more productively if you commit more fully to a smaller number of networks.
- Most of all, make sure that you find a way to make networking fun. When you enjoy networking, it stops feeling like work. The tech entrepreneur and legendary networker Mary McKenna networks to ‘collect interesting people’, and her life is the richer for it.
Top Tip from a Networking Pro
Lisa Strutt, Asentiv Certified Networker Instructor says ‘Avoid networking alone! Can you team up with a friend and go to events together? This means that you’re able to introduce one another to people you each know. It’s such fun introducing someone, because you can really champion them and their skills.’
At Bespoke Communications, we regularly host networking workshops with our customers, and we’ve blogged about what we’ve learnt. Read more here.
At Inspired, we’re in awe (no pun intended!) of two local dynamos that give their time to support and encourage other women. Read on to find out how you can be part of the networks that Geri Martin and Nuala Murphy champion.
Lean In Belfast Chapter
Lean In is a global non-profit organisation that empowers women to achieve their ambitions. It was founded by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, in 2013 to encourage more gender equality in leadership in the workplace and society as a whole. Here in Northern Ireland, you can take part in Lean In by attending events and joining online forums. We love the fact that the network is facilitated online! That means that if you still be part of it, even if you can’t get out during the working day or attend evening events. You can still get involved and share your expertise with others, to become part of a supportive community that reciprocates when you need it. It’s the ultimate #giversgain! The other great thing about a network that’s both online and offline, is that it makes that nerve-wracking first event automatically easier too. When you attend an event, and meet someone in person that you have only ever spoken with before on Facebook, it’s the ultimate ice-breaker!
Search Lean In Belfast Chapter – Non-Profit Organisation on Facebook to join.
Lean In Belfast is championed by Nuala Murphy. Nuala is a chartered marketer and the founder and CEO of momenthealthapp.com, a mental health support app for new and expectant Mums and families.
Aspiring Women in Enterprise (AWE NI)
Geri Martin was inspired to set up AWE NI after setting up her own business, The Chocolate Manor. She knew that she couldn’t be the only small business-owner to feel the need to get out and meet other like-minded entrepreneurs. She wanted to set up a network locally in Northern Ireland that would offer the same support and encouragement that she had experienced in other online communities that she had joined. By creating a local network, she wanted to connect people online, so they could meet up in person anytime. So Aspiring Women in Enterprise (NI), or AWE NI, was born!
AWE NI is a Facebook group for female business owners. Running a small business can be isolating and as women, very often we are anxious about revealing to others that we need help. Being a member of AWE takes away that anxiety and provides a place where members can ask questions, and receive honest feedback and support. Geri says, ‘Members understand that we are not there to compete, but to encourage. AWE keeps you connected to others who face the same challenges, and can provide a warm welcome when you need it most.’
Search AWE NI: Aspiring Women in Enterprise NI on Facebook to join.
AWE NI is championed by Geri Martin. Geri is a mum of two, and founder of The Chocolate Manor. The Chocolate Manor specialises in printed chocolates for events, gifts, retail, promotions and hospitality.