Mentioning the word networking conjures up feelings of dread in many people. Lots of handshaking, name tags, circling tables and feeling out of place.
Good times, right? Why go home with the family or spend those two hours at the gym?
As a seasoned networking expert, I agree that it can be a chore. You can meet a lot of fake people.
So, the best advice I can give you is be yourself and tell your story. People are attracted to stories and tend to retain someone’s personal information longer. You will know when it’s time to end the story when you start seeing their eyes glaze over.
The truth is networking is more vital than ever when building relationships. As stated repeatedly building relationships is key to fundraising success. So, getting out and meeting people is worth the time if you’re hoping to fundraise for your nonprofit.
It also helps to realize that networking has earned a bad reputation because of some stereotypes. Here are three myths I can dispel:
Myth #1: Its all about the cards. Don’t let the networking events become a race to collect as many business cards as possible. When trying to build strong relationships quality is much better than quantity. Does that mean you don’t hand out business cards, of course not? However, the primary goal should be having conversations. Listen for what people do and strategically think about how they can connect with your organization. Here are some communication basics that really matter:
- Greet people with a handshake and a genuine smile while maintaining eye contact. This posture makes people feel accepted.
- When asked about yourself and what you do, have a brief, 30 second, elevator speech prepared. What you say should prompt the telling of your story.
- If people are gathered in a group, wait respectfully to be invited into the conversation versus barging in. We have all meet that guy and we don’t want that reputation.
Myth #2 It’s all about selling yourself. Yes, you want people to know your story but, don’t focus too much on yourself. It is a turnoff. Remember its building relationships, not collecting business cards. So how do you do that?
- After introducing yourself, ask others about their interests, hobbies – anything but work. This will allow you to bond over something that is not work related, so the relationship is about more than selfish motives.
- Speaking of motives, yours should be to give rather than get. Learn how you can be of service to others and share your expertise with them. This is how lasting substantial relationships start, but it takes time. You may not leave a networking event with a donation, but you’ve launched a dialogue with someone who wants to know you better and help you, as you’ve helped them.
Myth #3: Introverts need not attend. If you are an introvert, you probably think you don’t stand a chance at these events. I would argue, that you have an advantage over those bubbly extroverts.
- You are a better listener. Introverts excel at active listening. You can emote that you are not only listening but that you also care about what is being said.
- You excel in one-on-one conversations. You don’t need an audience of 5 to 6 people. Quality relationship building starts with just two people getting to know each other.
- You are more thoughtful in your responses. Instead of merely waiting to talk next, you respond to what was said to you, leading the conversation to a deeper level.
So, go to your next networking event with a new mindset. There is no pressure for you to perform. I promise it will be worth your time.
I hope this helps. Your feedback is appreciated.
If you are a CEO or ED of a nonprofit organization and want to learn from me and others join the Supporting World Hope Facebook Group.