How To Network Like An Athlete
Could you learn how to Network like an athlete?
It’s that time again, the 4-year point where everyone breaks out the flags and cheers their country on in the Olympic games. This year the games have headed to the stunningly colorful Rio. With many business owners taking time out of their day to watch the games. Are you glued to the TV at the moment? Or maybe scanning the news to see how many medals Great Britain has won?
As business owners, we can’t help but admire the athletes, and not just for their outstanding performances and resilience. The commitment these men and women have shown to their goal of getting to (and winning) the Olympics is just staggering. Which has got us thinking – do you have the same commitment to your business success? How about your networking success? How could watching the Olympic athletes compete teach us how to network our business successfully?
Have A Clear Goal
Ask a pro athlete what their goal is, and they will always have an answer. It might be to move up to the next league, or to win gold at the Olympics. The point is they won’t even have to think about the question – the goal is clearly imprinted in their mind. Every action is designed to bring them closer to that goal. We have lost track of the number of people who have come to us saying that they didn’t see any results out of networking! Yet when we ask them what their goal was, they couldn’t precisely tell us.
Now you may get lucky a few times, but networking without a plan is a lot like trying to fish without bait. Your rod and line might be there, but no one understands what you want. The next time you go networking, have a specific goal in mind. Maybe you’re looking for a job, trying to connect with a certain kind of person. Or perhaps you want to get advice on how to handle a difficult situation. Having a goal in mind not only helps break the ice but encourages follow-up discussion and opens up a discussion.
Olympic athletes don’t just prepare for a few months in advance of the competition. They may up the pace and intensity of their training around this time, but in reality, they are training every day of the year, preparing themselves to tackle their goal. A pro athlete will never walk into a competition without having prepared thoroughly first. This is where a lot of business owners could learn a thing or two. Preparing for a networking event isn’t just getting some freshly printed business cards and turning up on time. If you can, look up in advance who will be there and choose who you want to speak to. If there is a speaker, do some research and have a few questions ready to ask. When you do your homework you can skip the small talk and get right into the meaningful conversations you are looking for, saving everyone time and making you look professional.
If you can, look up in advance who will be there and choose who you want to speak to. If there is a speaker, do some research and have a few questions ready to ask. When you do your homework you can skip the small talk and get right into the meaningful conversations you are looking for, saving everyone time and making you look professional. Make sure you check out the host’s website so you know the format of the meeting and the timings of the event. Structured networking, in particular, will only work if you are on time and stay until the end, that’s when you can make the right connections.
Professional athletes are under pressure to perform perfectly at all times. Sometimes they don’t manage it – everyone has off days – but most of the time they perform to the best of their ability. If you are networking, you should be thinking about this. If you go to a group regularly, you might get comfortable with the group, which can make you lazy in networking your business. Make sure that at every networking event you attend, you are presenting your business at its best and making the most of every conversation. Go out of your way to try to connect people and give as well as receive advice. If your performance and enthusiasm at networking events stays high, you are likely to see more results from it.
Never Give Up
It’s silly to think that just because an athlete has reached the Olympics means they haven’t failed. Professional athletes get to the level they are by training, preparing and, perhaps most importantly, failing. Experimenting with new approaches and failing helps them to understand their limitations and how to perform better next time.
We often see failure as a very negative thing, but in reality it simply means you are on the stepping stones to success. As a business owner, there will be times when you fail – especially when it comes to networking. You may dedicate your time to a group and see no return, upset someone within the group or simply say something stupid without thinking (we’ve all been there).
The important thing to remember is that no one ever succeeded without failing a few times first. So if you go to your very first networking event and don’t work up the courage to speak to anyone, don’t worry. Just try again, and soon you will find yourself chatting away like a natural.
If you’ve never networked before – don’t panic! It’s often easier to start out with smaller groups, as these tend to be very friendly and understanding to newcomers, as opposed to bigger events that can feel a touch impersonal. If you are a woman interested in networking for the first time, or just looking to try out a new group, you can arrange to visit 10-12 at one of our meetings here, or to see the format of our meetings (to help you prepare in advance!) click here.