Recently I become a Connector in a student career program sponsored by my local Chamber of Commerce.   One of the obligations I have as a Connector is to meet with ‘my student’ to discuss business and to refer two people in my network who will agree to also have a conversation.  This offers an excellent opportunity for the student to grow their own network.

As a business owner, are you attending networking events?  Are you making the most of these events? If not, you are missing out and it is costing you time, money and sales!  Networking is a major time commitment and it offers a fabulous opportunity to build upon and expand your network.  You never know who you will meet, or who they know.

Do Networking Events Cause You Stress?
For many years, I used to become physically ill on my way to business meetings.  Sometimes I even drove all the way to the event only to turn around and go home too anxious to walk inside.  Although I still face some anxiety before events, particularly when I do not know people at the event, I no longer become ill or walk away from the events. Instead I now embrace the opportunity to build my network and connect.

Reduce the stress using these three tips:

1.  Set a goal.
When you have a goal, you gain clarity and understand the purpose of your attendance.  Networking doesn’t mean selling.  Networking means establishing relationships.  At each event, commit to meeting and learning more about two or three good connections rather than just collecting business cards.  A good connection can add value to your network and potentially to your business.  

2.  Focus on others not yourself.
This may seem easier said than done, however when you focus on yourself you are less able to notice what is happening or being said around you.  Think of yourself as an inquiring mind with a thirst for information.  Brief yourself on current events and hot business topics as these are good conversation starters.

Most importantly, focus on what people are saying and ask probative, open-ended question to learn more about their business, target client, and product/service offerings.  This information will help you refer business their way, differentiate you from others and it provides a foundation for your follow-up message after the event.

3.  Join a group conversation
Do you walk into a room and sit?  Sitting limits your ability to connect with a variety of people, engage in discussions and make those good connections.

Catherine Rocheleau is the Founder & CEO of Ignite Leadership International.  Catherine works with business leaders and entrepreneurs who are frustrated with mediocre results, stuck or motivated to be a better leader.  Her consulting and coaching services help create the structures and systems that drive business results.

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