Networking is such a dirty word. I prefer to use the term “making relationships” .. because at the end of the day, that’s really what it is all about, especially if you are an introvert. As part of my 2014 goals, we’ve been getting out there and meeting new folks, reacquainting with others and spreading the message about what virtual assistance is and we do here at Out of the Office. So far, we have made good progress towards that goal – we have exhibited at one conference, attended three. Keeping in mind that rural Vermont is .. well .. rural, that’s a good start! We still need to make the decision on whether to join the local chamber of commerce, and thus attend their events, but each step that we take is a step moving forward.
As the resident uber-planner, I have made a quick networking event checklist to ensure that I don’t forget something when I attend an event. If you come ill-prepared, potential clients and referrals will be less than likely to refer an assistant who is disorganized. Maybe this will help you out too!
Even though we are a paperless company, business cards are still an essential marketing tool and branding piece. Make sure you include the following elements on your card:
- Name & Title
- Business Name (and logo)
- Address (even though you are virtual, many folks like to know if you’re “local”)
- Web address
- A “connect with me link” (more on this below)
- Optional extra: Your headshot! Sometimes a face is easier for others to remember you and your conversation.
Tip: Use both sides of your business card!
Since the ultimate goal of networking, is to connect with other people and businesses, make it easy for them to connect with you. Set up a page on your website for connecting. Although we as virtual assistants have the tendency to be on every social media platform, not everyone you meet is on your preferred social media platform (you know, the one you really use most often). You connection page could be located on your ‘Contact Us’ page, but I prefer to have a separate page for each of us here and it includes:
- About.Me URL
- Links to all the social media profiles
- Image of the front and back of my business card
To see what it looks like, you can visit (and connect!) my page here.
You are the face of your brand! If you cannot convey what you do to others quickly, then you may be perceived as unorganized (that’s the kiss of death for a VA), shy, introverted, unsure of yourself and what you do. Make sure your elevator speech is short, evokes emotion, asks a question and be enthusiastic when you talk.
While this might scare some folks, getting a name badge that looks like a corporate security badge is a smart thing. First, it has your name, photo, what your title is and where you work. Second, you can design your badge to look like your brand! OfficeMax allows you to make your own ID badge in their services center.
Even if you are paperless, you may need to write notes about a connection right away, so be sure to bring a pen. Write on the back of their card (or any white space you can find). If you need more room, excuse yourself, scan their card and add notes electronically on your phone.
Not optional. Wear clothing that is professional but is you. I recently exhibited at an expo as a SCORE mentor, all dressed up and in conservative clothing. Most of my fellow mentors did not recognize me. When it came time to walk the show as the owner of Out of the Office, out came my OOFVA polo shirt and capris. Heels? Sure .. if you’re comfortable standing in them for hours and can walk like a lady in them. I’ve seem so many 4+” heel wearers out there that do not know how to walk properly in their heels. If you walk like a robot, choose different footwear. This is networking meet & greet, not a fashion show.
Seriously! I’ve been to countless events where there is a cash bar, or drinks that you need to pay for, and most don’t take credit cards. Be smarter than the average bear. When it does come to alcohol, know your limits or refrain. No one wants to be referred to as the “drunken wacko from the last meet & greet.”
While you cannot pop the internet in your purse (well .. technically you can tuck your tablet or smartphone in there), it’s important to keep your social media updated. If you’re going to an event, mention it! No networking event is too small to mention. Big statewide business expo? Yep! Rotary meeting? Yep!
Speaking of social media, LinkedIn is still an important platform to keep current and updated. It’s also a great place to meet and find clients. If you’re not on there, get there. If you’re business isn’t there, make a company page and a showcase page.
Finally, smile! Let your enthusiasm show. Let the passion for your industry and your business shine.
About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:
At Out of the Office, we offer ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, and offering creative solutions for your business success.Image Credit: Figure 13.9 by Jurgen Appelo | CC BY 2.0