On March 4 I’ll be spending the day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the first Lean On: Alabama conference. This leadership and lifestyle conference for women seeks to provide attendees with the chance to build relationships with like-minded women while sharing their own experiences and learning from women who are leaders in their communities, in business, and in government.
As a writer and blogger I do a lot of online networking in Facebook groups, in Twitter chats, via email, and even in the comments section of my favorite blogs. But I do my best networking when I step away from the computer and attend live, in-person events.
Many of the women writers and bloggers I know hate networking so much that it makes them sick to their stomachs — literally. But when armed with a purpose and a plan, networking can be highly effective and productive and even fun.
Here are 7 tips to help you network like a boss:
Attend events that will attract your ideal reader/customer. You’re a busy woman with no time to waste. So do your research and be sure that the networking event you’re attending is one where you’ll actually find people who would be interested in your blog, book, or business.
Make a fashion statement. Whether you like it or not, what you wear to a networking event matters. You’ve got to look the part to get the role. Choose an outfit that properly represents your personal brand and that helps you feel confident and comfortable. Also, add something to your outfit that will make you memorable such as fun shoes, a statement necklace, or really interesting handmade earrings. I once had a pair of earrings inspired by the Boondocks comic strip that always sparked conversation at networking events. Wear the right thing and your wardrobe can serve as your ice breaker!
Have a plan. Approach each networking event with a specific goal, such as, I will collect the business cards of at least 5 people who might be interested in joining my email list. Having a clear objective will keep you from wandering aimlessly around the room and will help you focus your conversation. You know that you need to eventually talk to people about your blog, book, or business to gauge their interest in what you do. Once it’s clear they’re interested in learning more, ask for their card and ask if it would be OK for you to add them to your list, while explaining briefly what they’ll get out of your newsletter. (But be sure to ask questions about what they do and genuinely listen. You don’t want to make the conversation all about you because that’s annoying and just plain rude.)
Bring business cards. Have your business cards in an easy-to-reach space (not the bottom of your bag) but don’t walk into an event making it rain with your cards. Only give your card when someone asks for it.
Make smart talk, not small talk. So many of my blog coaching clients tell me they hate networking because they’re bad at making small talk. Well, stop making “small talk.” Try having meaningful conversations instead. Give yourself an assignment, if necessary. Decide that you’re going to write a blog post highlighting 5 interesting people you meet at the event. This will motivate you to ask questions to really get to know the people you meet and to get their business cards so you can contact them later for follow-up questions, a photo, and permission to include them in your post.
Also, tailor your conversations to the personality of the person with whom you are talking. For example, if you’re talking to someone who is an outgoing community leader or CEO, simply get to the point. She probably has a dozen other people she needs to talk to and another networking event to attend before the night is over. If you’re talking to someone who is a cheerleader, the kind of person who loves to support other people, keep the conversation focused on why you do what you do and be sure to ask her the motivation behind her work as well.
Be inviting. If you’re talking to a group of people, don’t stand in a closed-off circle. Position yourself so that your group is inviting to others. And if you’re the one who welcomes the wallflowers this will certainly make you more memorable, too.
Follow up! As soon as you get home go through the business cards you collected and jot down a few notes on each person — who they are, what they do, and how you’d like to work with them in the future. Within three days of the event follow up with an email. In the email ask the person if you may add her to your mailing list. Also, offer something to show you were really listening during your conversation at the networking event such as a link to an article related to something you discussed. This also shows that you are dedicated to helping people and that you offer valuable content to those in your tribe.
What tricks and tips do you have for effective networking?
Whether you’re attending a national blogging conference like BlogHer or just networking at an event in your hometown, you need to be able to quickly and concisely explain what your blog is all about. You need an elevator pitch. Here’s how to craft one:
Be brief. In your elevator speech you need to explain what you blog about and why in about 30 seconds.
Be clever. When working on your elevator pitch consider comparing your blog to something the folks in your niche would recognize. In the New Year I plan to relaunch my personal blog with a new look, a newsletter and a new focus. And after that relaunch I want people to say that I’m like a feminist Jeff Goins. But feel free to be funny or witty when finding a comparison for your blog. Maybe you’re Erika Napoletano without the f-bombs. Or maybe on your running blog you hit people with f-bombs and the hard truth on the regular and so you’re the Erika Napoletano of the fitness world. (Can you tell I really like Erika Napoletano?)
Be yourself. Mainly, you just need to be sure your elevator pitch is authentic. Your blog’s tagline is not your elevator speech. While that tagline is great for your business cards, if you say it in actual conversation it will probably sound too contrived. For example, my personal blog The Writeous Babe Project is about “writing, wellness and women’s empowerment.” It’s about how I am “writing my way through life as a southern fried feminist.” But when I say either of those out loud I sound and feel like a jerk store. So instead of an overly rehearsed speech, consider just having bullet points that present the highlights of your site.
To craft a truly effective elevator pitch start with the mission statement for your blog. Focus on your Why. I blog to empower women, especially those who write and those yearning to live a life worth writing about. That should be at the core of my elevator pitch and at the core of all I do for my blog.
What tips do you have for crafting a good elevator pitch?
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Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.