I remember my first networking event as a business owner. It was on the 11th January 2017 and hosted by the East London Chamber of Commerce.
That morning when I woke up, I was tempted to duck out of it. What do I say when I get there? Will they look at me like a kid? Can I convince them I’m a serious business woman?
These thoughts, and many others racing through my brain at an alarming speed, almost made me back out.
I got there at 12pm, registered and picked up my badge. The lady at the desk, Samantha, she was nice.
As I walked to the main networking room, I thought to myself, “You’re way in over your head Steph. These are all experts and you, you haven’t even perfected your pitch!”
Your pitch is basically how you answer the question, “What do you do?”. Although, I had actually spent all Christmas using tips from Daniel Priestley’s Key Person of Influence to craft and develop my pitch, I still didn’t feel confident enough.
You see, coming from the corporate world, I never really had to put too much thought or effort into explaining what I did. It was simple: “I am an auditor at EY”. Most people had an idea of what an auditor does and most people know the company EY – sorted. Running your own gig, however, is slightly more nerve wracking. Especially if you’re still trying to figure it out yourself.
Anyway, I was already at the event so I was just gonna have to suck it up. I took a deep breath, said a simple prayer as I settled in, “God, your word said that he who has favour with God has favour with man also. Please let today go well.”, and turned on my smile and charisma.
First good thing that happened was a lovely lady who runs her own creative design agency came up to me, said hello and, “*tilts head* I like your face. What’s your name?”
After that, I felt more settled and started to mingle. I got lots of opportunities to answer “so what do you do?” and loads of more experienced people giving me tips to help me get more confident in my pitch while offering to help if I needed it.
At some point, I even managed to command my own little audience of 3 people who saw my business name on the list and really wanted to know more about what I do. As I was explaining and giving examples, more people joined to hear what I had to say which was good exposure for me.
If you know me personally, you’ll know I’m a very animated speaker and I know one of my strengths is the ability to captivate my audience when I speak. Being at the networking event reminded me that nerves and new experiences are normal because once I cross the hurdle, my gift would make way for me.
I made loads of contacts that day, got to practice my pitch with so many people and get feedback and this also helped me further clarify what I wanted people to know about my business and it’s services.
Another huge benefit, for me, from attending the event was meeting a lady called Philippa who is a co-founder of a company which has been running for about 7 years, specialising in helping their clients make their PowerPoint presentations better. I don’t know about you but that was super fascinating for me. I come from a career background where PowerPoint and indeed Microsoft skills were a dime a dozen so it escaped my consciousness that other businesses actually didn’t have the same skills or used them at the same level of proficiency. Boy, did I have so many questions for Philippa!
All in all, while I didn’t necessarily find a new client from the event, I got loads of tips and counsel from people more experienced at practically running a business. They shared their fears from when they first started out and told me mistakes to avoid.
And to think I almost backed out of a wonderful learning experience.
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