Over the last 33 days I have personally met and discussed JuniorBiz with 34 new people. I have had more than one interaction with 12 of those 34, and 2 of them bought my book.
As a new entrepreneur, there are few things more important than networking and spreading the word about your business in your local community.
This post details how to find people to network with and how to talk to those people. This is the first part in a two part series. The second article will focus on networking online as a young entrepreneur.
How to Find People
As a young entrepreneur, your peers are more likely to have expertise on MTV and video games than how to start a business. So how do you find adults with the knowledge and resources that you need to help your business grow?
Keep in mind that networking is more art than science, so there is no perfect formula or process for you to follow. The method that I have sketched out below has been proven to work in my experience, but there is no limit to the number of ways you can network successfully.
Step 1: Determine who can help
The first thing you should figure out is the type of person you can benefit from talking to. For example, if you own a babysitting business, you’re going to want to talk to parents, other babysitters or maybe other entrepreneurs.
Step 2: Research networking events
Once you determine who you want to talk to, you have to find places and events where these people gather. From my experiences, the easiest way to do this is to use Meetup.com.
Meetup.com is a database of groups of people who regularly gather to talk about their shared interests. To find a meetup:
- Go to http://Meetup.com.
- Click “Find a Meetup Group” at the top left.
- You can browse by city or topic. I recommend browsing by topic.
- Input a topic, how far you’re willing to travel, your country and zip code. Press “search.” When considering a topic, think of all the things that are relevant to your business. If you’re a babysitter, you can search “babysitting,” “childcare,” “moms,” “parents” or “entrepreneurs.”
- Search through the resulting Meetup Groups until you find one you would be interested in attending.
- Then look around that group and see what they are all about. If you think meeting those people could somehow help your business, request to join the group, fill out the info, and RSVP for the next Meetup.
Step 3: Go to the Meetup
Now that you’re registered and RSVP’ed, you’re pretty much obligated to go. I recommend bringing a friend, parent, or acquaintance along because it can be a little intimidating to go to one of these meetings for the first time by yourself.
Step 4: Introduce yourself to the founder
The first person you want to meet when you arrive at the Meetup is the founder or head honcho of the group. You should know what he/she looks like and it should be easy to pick them out of the crowd. This person knows the majority of the people there and can introduce you to the other members.
When you first approach the founder/head honcho, here is your introduction:
“Hi, my name is (i.e. Oprah Winfrey) and I am a young entrepreneur who is trying to meet people who can give me advice about my business. I have had my (i.e. babysitting) business for (i.e. 5) weeks/months/years now and I’m trying to take it to the next level. Do you have any advice for me or can you introduce me to someone who might be able to help?”
At this point the head honcho will likely be impressed and will want to do whatever he/she can to help, including introducing you to other people.
Step 5: Talk to other people
If you have gotten this far, I commend you. The next section will detail how you should talk to these people.
How to Talk to People
To this day, simply introducing myself and talking to new people is something I struggle with. My palms get sweaty and I wonder if people notice when I shake their hands. So don’t worry if you’re slightly intimidated by this. The more you do it, the easier it will be.
Step 1: The handshake
Almost everyone says that a firm handshake is really important when you meet someone for the first time. Personally, I think firm handshakes are a sign that you’re trying to establish yourself as the dominant individual out of the two handshakers.
I have much more respect for someone who pleasantly and calmly shakes my hand. I’m not saying you should approach them with a limp-wrist, but focus on making eye contact more than squeezing their hand.
Step 2: The first words
A simple introduction: “Hi my name is Oprah Winfrey and I’m a young entrepreneur.” No matter who you are talking to, this will take them by surprise and they will likely respond with, “Really? What type of business do you have?” Then you tell them…
Step 3: The other words
The most important thing to remember when you are talking to these people is to simply be yourself. Don’t try and act like a hot-shot young entrepreneur. Yet, don’t downplay yourself either.
When discussing your business be confident, but not arrogant. Recognize that you’re the one asking for help and let this circumstance humble you. The person you’re talking to will be much more likely to help if they find you likeable.
It may sound challenging to tightrope walk the fine lines between confidence and arrogance, kindness and brown-nosing – and it is – but the rewards for successful networking are more than worth the effort.
Even if just one person out of every 100 you talk to is willing to help, then that’s more help than you had before. Plus, 100 more people are at least aware of your business.
If you decide to wuss out on this whole offline networking thing, you should remember that a lot of people your age don’t have the ambition to get off the couch, let alone start their own business. Be proud of your business and bring it up in everyday conversation.
Keep in mind, networking doesn’t have to be and intimidating process: every person you talk to about your business is another person who might be able to help you in the future.
If you have any success stories regarding offline networking, please share them in the comments area below. Also, if you found this post helpful, you should Get JuniorBiz by Email. Thanks for reading.
Now that you know how to network offline…
Discover these tried-and-true online networking tips:
How to Network as a Young Entrepreneur: Online >>
Photo by: eekim