If you are looking to network in Basingstoke, why not do it in lycra? Personally, I can’t think there are many materials I look worse in but I have already made some great contacts by joining Ark to Arc 2017.
And I Hate Networking
Maybe you’re new to the area, got a boss telling you to get out and meet more businesses locally; or perhaps you are self-employed and are looking to extend your reach. One way or another, you know you’ve got to get out there but don’t know where to start.
You see the usually networking events pop up and your palms start to sweat across your mouse. You get flashbacks of someone saying “Right Craig, it’s your turn to stand up and bore the crap out of everyone on the table for the next two minutes… Go!”
You then start to remember the time you were standing around like a plum on your own and those feelings of being the last one picked for the team at school is creeping over you, while everyone is laughing at each others witty conversations in groups like a bad coffee commercial.
My Networking Tips*
Those people who know me, probably know I blow hot and cold with stuff like this. In general, I wouldn’t say I am much of a people person but put me in a room with no underlying subtext (and preferably alcohol) and I’m like a Kenwood Chef when I get going**. Here’s my angle:
- Be like an animal and find the best environment that suits you. If it’s a stuffy networking event, so be it. If it’s a Rugby Club slurring over Port that also works. You have to feel comfortable for the real YOU to appear.
- Don’t care if people don’t like you. That’s the best bit of advice I ever got – it removes a lot of pressure.
- Fish where the fish are. I meet so many people who network in the wrong places with the wrong calibre of people. No disrespect, but we all have our levels. Go to the places where you are more likely to find people you want to meet.
- You’re selling yourself – nothing else. If you bombard people with your pitch, they will switch off. Get them to buy into you at their pace.
- It’s all about connections and making yourself a Maven (a la Malcolm Gladwell) – If you build it they will come – your reputation that is.
- There are other tips about listening (you have two ears and one mouth says the corny advice) and body language but that’s not my area. I have so much of a sparkling personality I just do all that shizzle naturally.
Additional Networking Advice For Cycling Events and Ark to Arc*
This is where it gets interesting as there are quite a few local business people on this trip. None will take kindly to being sold to so it’s all down to you and your ability to balance and talk at the same time while dazzling them with your personality… Dressed in Lycra… Wearing a helmet that makes you look like a bell-end… Sweating and panting and struggling for breath. Go on, knock ’em bandy! But remember;
- Making new contacts on Ark to Arc is like dating. At first, you are friendly and interested in what the other person has to say, then you start hitting hills in the road at which time you decide, shall I ride with them or leave them behind.
- Never start a deep conversation at the bottom of a steep hill – it won’t last.
- Support others and don’t get cocky. Over four days, I can guarantee it will come back to bite you in the arse.
- Learn to speak French – then you will be able to impress everyone for at least three days. (And I’m not talking Del Boy Trotter French phrases, bonnet de douche.)
In all honesty, I do these events because I like them, I have a set of skills that make me useful in promoting them and we raise a lot of money for charity. But, I have also met some great people on JOGLE16 and already on Ark to Arc. Some have become very good friends and some I am doing business with. I have also been able to connect people together with my existing business network.
And, if that seems cynical, please see rule number two of my network advice above. It’s all good fun!
* I have no skill or special capabilities to give advice on these matters, please ignore me. It’s all for effect.
** Only Fools and Horses reference.