Are you a compelling advert for your own business at networking events? Joanne Sumner gives us some tips on how to present ourselves for maximum effect.
If people buy people, you need to make sure that you are a compelling advert for your business when networking.
When you come into a room full of people, do you want to be noticed as you walk in? Do you want people to think to themselves “that person looks bright, different, interesting, I must find out what they do”? Because if so, you need to address how you present yourself – both your physical appearance and your energy, your ability to take up space in the room.
Your physical appearance is one of the most important aspects and the first thing a person notices about you.
When we see someone walk into a room, as women, we often make a mental note of appearance. My husband always says he can see me checking the women out as we walk down the street, running my eyes up and down what they’re wearing, how they’ve done their hair, what shoes they’ve got on etc. And I would say that I’m someone who thinks people should just wear whatever they feel comfortable and confident in.
Even so, often without realising it, I’m taking that information in and categorising people all the time. I appreciate it when someone looks whacky, or sleek, or vivid, or edgy, because I can see that they have made an effort; it can be uplifting, challenging, or simply noteworthy – and in a networking situation, where your potential consumers and allies are the other people in the room, it is surely worth having an uplifting effect and standing out from the crowd from the moment you enter the room.
This point is even more important if you have a business which in any way deals with appearance or presentation or representation. You need to demonstrate that you have an appreciation of the importance of presentation through your own. That doesn’t mean turning up suited and booted for each session, it means making sure you look professional and well put together in a way that works for what you do, inspires trust that you are competent, and in way that says something about WHO YOU ARE…
For example, imagine a Virtual Assistant, who is competent at her job and offers a flexible and reasonably priced service, but has a habit of turning up late, looking scattered and messy, leaving her phone on (which inevitably then goes off, at which point she can’t find it), and generally causing a kerfuffle. She isn’t being a great advert for her business which is to take the hassle OUT of your business by speaking to your clients, looking after your admin and organising things for you.
As well as your appearance being a good testimonial, you want to be happy occupying the space you’re in and be a positive influence in the conversations you start. We’ve all had that experience I’m sure, where we’ve been nervous about going into a networking situation – perhaps we don’t know anyone yet - and we shrink into ourselves. Unless you are a great actor, that shrinking will communicate itself, whether consciously or unconsciously. For example, you may find yourself apologising every two minutes such as when you hand over your business card; you may find yourself wanting to sit next to a particular person but not asserting yourself and so missing the opportunity; or simply being a wallflower and not taking part in the conversation.
So, what can you do to be able to walk in and to speak with confidence and own your space? I find it helpful to make sure I have a couple of minutes of quiet before I walk in, in which I just stop doing and thinking for a moment and remind myself why I love and adore what I do… I might think of a client who had a breakthrough, or reconnect with my vision for the business, or go back to a milestone that fills me with a sense of achievement and excitement about who I am and what I have to offer. And from that space, I walk in and strike up a conversation. And from that place it’s very difficult to be anything other than positive, inspiring, and magnetic…
I would argue this place of inspiration is what we need to connect with again and again, and if you feel it as a physical sensation in the body, even better because you can call that to mind. For me it’s shoulders down, chest broad, back straight but easy, feet firmly on the floor, lower voice… and going into that posture makes the shift for me. …
Try it next time you walk in or have to pitch your business.