As an introvert, attending networking events is not my favorite thing to do. However, when I follow the “SWAG” method, I am more comfortable and consequently more effective. SWAG is an acronym that stands for Simplify your message, be Welcoming, be Aware of others, and establish Goals. I recently did a presentation on using SWAG for effective networking and would like to share with you a few highlights from that presentation.
When I began to build my coaching business years ago, networking was an integral strategy of my marketing effort. As an introvert, though, I’m not a social butterfly. However, not one book of the many books I read discussed how to go about networking in a way that suited my personality. The beauty of SWAG is that you can customize it to your comfort level. Let’s review the components of the SWAG model:
Simplify Your Message
Inevitably at any social event someone will ask, “What do you do?” How do you communicate what you do? Your response will either pique their interest or be a conversation killer. For instance, if I say, “I’m a business coach,” there is nowhere to go and the conversation is brought to an end. The person I’m talking to typically smiles politely and slowly walks away. This acts as a conversation stopper because the person doesn’t truly understand what coaching is outside the sports world or what a “business coach” actually does.
Simplifying your message can be done in two ways. Often, the best way is to use kidspeak. Describe what you do as a 6-year-old would. Avoid industry language and jargon. A simplistic explanation is far more engaging and provides an opportunity for others to engage with you and ask questions. Another option is to focus on a particular area of your expertise that is new or exciting. Reference a current event to share information about a new project, goal, or idea. Focusing on one area simplifies the message. Excitement is contagious and subconsciously encourages the person to engage with you.
There are few things worse than attending an event and seeing a bunch of people in their cliques. A person new to the event will wonder where they fit in. Position yourself to be warm and welcoming to others. Not only does that provide you a focus or role for the event, but you make an opportunity to create conversation with someone new. It also lends support to those introverts who aren’t sure what to do with themselves and also supports the extroverts who thrive on being social butterflies. When you’re a helpful, go-to person, you establish a positive first impression.
Be Aware of Others
This is key to becoming an effective networker. If you’ve positioned yourself to be welcoming, you should not have a problem with this step. I tell my coaching clients that they first need to know their own strengths and personality style, and then the strengths and personality style of others. This helps you adjust appropriately to anyone you meet. Social butterflies can provide some enthusiasm for the shy people in a group. The shy people can engage in conversations where they listen and actively engage with others. In addition, knowing your strengths in terms of how you build relationships and accomplish tasks can support the dynamic. For instance, being focused and goal-directed can support with developing next steps. Being warm and understanding can support new connections for future events.
Simply showing up could be a goal, but it’s not terribly inspiring and likely won’t produce results. On the other end of the spectrum, a goal of giving business cards to as many people as possible won’t accomplish much. How do you measure your results? Obviously obtaining a new client at a networking event is a great goal, but it’s not always a realistic goal. Here are a few others to consider:
- Connect with others in a similar business to learn or share resources.
- Meet influencers in the community or in your target market and attend other events together and generate referrals for one another.
- Learn something new.
- Be open to new experiences.
- Discover something that can help you personally or professionally.
Having your goals front and center provides focus and a sense of productivity for every event you attend. Be clear on what you want to share about yourself and what you do, be comforting and warm, leverage your strengths to strengthen relationships, and set goals. If you’re interested in seeing the presentation, check out this link on YouTube. If you’re interested in becoming a coaching client to establish goals and exceed them, click here to schedule your initial consultation.