I worked in Human Resources for almost 12 years. As a highly skilled recruiter I did NOT have a network. I only started realising the importance of networking towards the end of my recruitment career.
I’ve always been introverted, even working in recruitment, so going to a conference with lots of people had always been a challenge for me. I would go to a training or recruitment seminar and if I was on my own, I would not talk to anyone, unless spoken to. Not because I’m a snob but because I was painfully shy.
I made friends with someone at the gym and one day at the beginning of 2012 she asked me if I wanted to attend a networking function with her. I jumped at the chance and said yes. I went, was terrified, went again, was still terrified but I ended up joining BNI.
Networking is one of the hardest skills I have had to learn. I’m still learning. I still feel awkward having the attention of a group of strangers focused on me. Saying the right thing and presenting oneself is critical. You could well be in the presence of the person who might be the client who gives you that BIG contract you’ve been working towards. If you act like one of the people below, you could ruin a potential important connection.
Let’s start with how NOT to introduce yourself to me:
Name dropper. It’s all about you and who you know. It’s great you once had a backstage pass to some famous band but how does that help me in my current line of work?
Card-thruster. I recently walked into a board room and I might still have had one foot outside the door when I had two business cards thrust on me and was trying to shake hands with two people at the same time. I sat in the closest empty seat near the door and another three people pushed their cards across the table at me. Five people and not one had asked me my name or what I do.
Double-carding. Being a BNI member we are supposed to ask new people we meet for two cards. I keep one and I can pass one on. This doesn’t work for me. I don’t mind being asked for two cards if the conversation is flowing and it’s relevant. I have found that most people don’t like giving two cards. I’ve had someone give me eight cards. In one go. File 13 for seven of them.
Verbal diarrhea. I don’t mind hearing your elevator pitch. As long as it’s well constructed and 60-90 seconds long. Over pitching or talking for 10 minutes and I start feeling cornered and start looking for an escape plan.
Handshakes. Firm. Not too strong. I have a strong desire to run to the bathroom and wash my hands if you have a weak handshake aka limp fish. You’re talking and I’m not listening as all I can think of is “I’ve just shaken hands with a dead person”.
The Barrel. We’re a group of four or five standing in a circle and we’re all listening and talking and here you come, push your way in, vigorously shake hands with everyone, give everyone your card. I admire your boldness. It might be better if you wait for a pause in conversation, ask if we can make the circle bigger (it always gets a laugh) and join and listen. Someone, very soon, will ask you a question. Then you can introduce yourself.
So how do you introduce yourself? “Hi, my name is Pleia, and I assist companies with social media and digital audits. I help you to identify and improve on your social media efforts.” The focus is on how I help, not what I do.
Now you know who I am, what I do, and more importantly, whether or not I can help you or someone you know.