The beginning of a new business is an exciting time. There are so many new ideas and endless possibilities, but how do you start to talk about a budding business when it’s not quite off the ground yet?
One thing I’ve noticed is that people are reluctant to talk about their business ideas for a variety of reasons. Some people are protective of their new baby, knowing it is not yet ready to be scrutinized by the world. Some people are afraid others will steal their ideas. Others just don’t know where to start. The good news is, you CAN network no matter what stage your business is in, because networking is about creating relationships and not about making sales. Odds are that you will find a great deal of supportive business people ready to give you a hand if you need it.
Still not convinced? Read on for tips:
- Be Ready for Advice and Suggestions – When you come into a networking event without an established business, you may find people are eager to help you. This can be beneficial, but it can also be overwhelming when you haven’t even started yet. If someone says something that piques your interest, you may want to take a note and tell them you’d like to follow-up with them on that advice once you get going. Just beware that this can be a situation that makes your head swim, and be prepared to “smile and nod” and not change all of your ideas because people seemingly more experienced have told you to. If people bring negativity to the conversation and make you feel bad about your idea, move on from talking to them. This is where a business coach or mentor can come in handy, because they help you build confidence about your own ideas and ensure stick to them despite outside influence.
- Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas – Could it happen? Maybe, but probably not. I hear many people are hesitant to discuss their idea because they think it is a goldmine and if they don’t get people to sign an NDA they won’t discuss it. For the most part, people at networking events are too busy with their own business to steal someone else’s. The people out there who are looking to steal business ideas have aren’t likely to have the same level of expertise and passion to pull it off the same way you would, so don’t worry about it! Besides, you don’t have to reveal every aspect of business at a networking event.
- Prepare your elevator pitch – Even if your spiel is just an explainer of the fact that you are new to the entrepreneurship world and just starting to put together your business, it is still worth preparing and practicing so you have more confidence to talk to people. Include the industry you are interested in, and what you are trying to learn more about, and see what they have to offer to the conversation.
Talking about your business at networking events is great for gaining potential clients, establishing people who can give you referrals down the line, and for bouncing ideas off of people while gaining insight into the industry. Hearing the reactions of experienced entrepreneurs as well as new ones is invaluable to a small business owner, because you get an idea of how the market reacts to your pitches, products, and services. Don’t hold back from attending networking events just because you don’t have your business plan or branding done. Jump in right away. In fact, you may find it’s even more low-pressure this way!