A few years ago, I was at an event in DC and there was a photographer there taking pictures of the speakers and the attendees. As the event was ending, several of the attendees approached the photographer to inquire about her services for their own events. What a fantastic opportunity for a freelancer, right? She said sheepishly, “I don’t have any business cards on me.” Still wanting to get to know her, the people who had gathered around her further inquired about her day job. The photographer then proceeded to tell the small crowd all about her current position, her jerk of a boss and how much her life basically sucked. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before everyone walked away, muttering, “my, my look at the time…”
I tell you this story because it’s a prime example of missing a golden networking opportunity. The photographer at the event had a captive audience that wanted to hear more about her services, practically slapping her smack dab in the face. And not only did she not have business cards, but she gave the attendees a negative vibe when she started talking about her crappy job. I get a lot of questions from women in our HBW community about networking and the best advice I can give is to BE PREPARED. In today’s post, I share some simple tips for what you can do to capitalize on your own golden networking opportunity. Because sometimes, you only get one chance!
Always, Always, Always Carry Business Cards
Business cards are still one of the best ways to exchange information when you meet someone at an event who wants to know more about your work. I know that every time I forget mine, it seems like that’s when I need them the most! Especially if you’re in the midst of building your side hustle, you really want people to have a way to contact you outside of your 9 to 5 if they come across any leads. For those who are stumped as to what to put on your business cards, just be sure you have the basics covered: your name, title (CEO, President, Founder, writer, consultant, or coach all are good titles to use to describe your role in your business), tagline or motto (optional), website url, email address and phone number (optional).
If you don’t have a set of business cards yet, I highly recommend either Vistaprint or MOO Cards where you can get some professional-looking cards made up that won’t break the bank. After all, you just never know when you’re going to be at a happy hour, conference or even the grocery store and find yourself chatting up a potential client or customer. In the worst-case scenario that you forget your business cards, make sure you ask for THEIR card so that you can follow-up with them later.
Be Ready to Answer the “What Do You Do?” Question
If you’re just starting out in your business, it’s important to be practice your answer for when someone asks, “so, what do you do?” What you DO NOT want to say is this: “Well, right now, a bunch of nothing until I find some clients. Know anybody who needs a speaker/coach/consultant/web designer/personal stylist?” You want to maximize your networking conversations and be sure to introduce yourself in a way that helps the other person understand what you do so they can either hire you themselves or connect you to potential leads. Now, this is where having an “elevator speech” really comes in handy!
In my own networking, I typically start out with something like, “I’m the founder of Happy Black Woman, which is a personal development company that provides training, coaching, workshops and retreats to help women create their ideal lives and businesses.” Then I just go forward into the conversation depending on what questions the other person asks about my work. I also like to use a variation of my elevator speech depending on who I’m talking to. For instance, if I’m talking to another speaker, coach or consultant, I might mention one of my programs and describe what I teach that could help them as entrepreneurs. If I’m sitting on the plane next to a conference organizer or meeting planner, I’d probably tell them about some of my speaking topics and how I help audiences improve their lives and businesses. Get the idea?
Project a Positive Attitude
Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. So it would make sense that nobody wants to give a referral to or hire a negative person, even if that person is perfectly capable of providing quality products and services. This means that even if your last gig was the job from hell, you don’t have to tell everyone about it. In fact, you should refrain from publicly airing your grievances about any negative experiences you had in your last position or with particular clients. When you’re networking, you want to be remembered as “such a nice person” with a good personality, interesting conversation and an upbeat attitude.
Remember that if people like you, they are more likely to hire you, book you and buy from you. They’ll also more willing to go to bat for you when you need a favor, a client referral or an introduction to a potential business partner. Everyone likes being around a happy person who can brighten their day. So turn your swag on: smile, give firm handshakes (or hugs!), and don’t be afraid to ask for that favor while you’ve got people’s attention!
There are so many possibilities that can come to you simply through networking. You want to stay ready to take advantage of opportunities by keeping a stack of business cards in your purse, practicing your elevator speech and leaving a positive impression when you meet new people.
Because when doors begin opening for you and your business, you want to be able to walk right through them.
Leave a comment below: How are you preparing for your golden business opportunity? Would you recognize it if it slapped you in the face?