How To Network As a Life Coach In Person And Online
Here's how to network and build strong relationships with colleagues, peers and potential life coaching clients, whether you connect face to face or on social media.
Why Network In Person
With the Covid pandemic there were restrictions on networking in person. Making contact online became the norm. But there is really no substitute for, when it is possible, making that in face to face personal connection.
There are so many benefits. You actually get to meet and check out for authenticity the people who may be able help and encourage you as well as connecting with potential clients and creating successful alliances for referrals.
Rather than spending all your time on the computer connecting, posting and commenting in various groups, you get to enjoy a real, convivial get together.
You can have great conversations and often than not listen to an interesting presentation as part of the event.
Networking function, such as a breakfast, lunch or evening meeting, whilst not being free as on social media platforms, may even include a meal and a glass of wine!
However, finding the best in person networking groups to join to promote your life coaching can be quite a challenge. Here's how I suggest you go about it.
Finding the right networking group
As in person networking groups may involve a membership fee or an attendance cost, it's important to find those that are going to be good value for your networking budget. Here are some tips to help you get it right.
1. Research your potential networking groups
If possible trial a networking group with three visits before you join and pay any membership fees. One visit is not usually enough to really know it will be of benefit. This gives you an opportunity to see if you like the environment and if the members are in the sphere of your ideal clients.
Many generic business networking organisations, (i.e. they don’t arise out of a
particular profession or interest group) can be over-stuffed with
consultants and life and business coaches all looking to make connections with potential clients. As a result these networks may only offer a small pool of possible clients who might want your coaching.
I’ve had the experience where every other person I speak to, or
is at my table, is in the coaching profession. So whilst
you may enjoy the conversation, the client opportunities are limited.
2. Ask yourself 'where do my ideal clients hang out?'
I'd suggest that you look f or associations to join that cater for your particular coaching focus or niche. For instance, if you have financial background, you may find your ideal clients if you network in an association or environment that caters for
accountants, Bookkeepers or bankers.
You won’t have so much competition and can
easily establish a rapport with potential clients because you know the industry.
Having said that, if your specialty is in a personal coaching niche such as, communication, relationships, confidence, etc., there will be people in all industries who will be open to being coached by you to help them move forward.
Some branches of business networking groups such as BNI (Business Networking International) limit members to one or two from each profession which can give you more scope for getting clients and referrals. So this is something worth taking into consideration before joining.
Do's And Don'ts For Successful In Person Networking
I've prepared this list of powerful tips on how to network when physically present with others. I learned many of these from my long time friend and networking expert Robyn Henderson, who has written many books on the subject. Other tips come from my own experiences and observations.
- Invest in some business cards: Or something like a postcard or bookmark that identifies who you are and what type of coaching you offer. Make your business card networking friendly by ensuring there is space and a suitable writing surface for your notes.
I advise making notes as there is nothing worse than getting home and not being able to remember who the person on the card you have collected was and/or what you talked about. More on creative business cards here.
- Follow-up and keep in contact: Follow up on any conversations with a card or email. Mention something you remember about them and/or their challenges (from what you have written on the back of their card) or about the event or the speaker. You don't have to sell unless it is appropriate. Just include something like "I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to connecting again."
- Learn to be a host: Take it on yourself to introduce people you know to each other. If you have a really shy colleague, offer to take him or her along and introduce them to people - and not only people who may be prospective clients. This will mark you as a true and valuable networker.
- Establish rapport: When you meet somebody new, you can start a conversation by fining something to genuinely compliment or connect with them on (such as a great tie or scarf), or share something that you may have in common.
- Listen more than you talk! This is how you find out about other people and how you may be able to help them and establish a future relationship.
- Be brief and concise: Practice describing what you do concisely in just a couple of sentences. Emphasise the benefits your coaching offers, rather than the fact you are a coach. Lean how to craft an effective "Elevator Speech". That is a short but engaging description of what you do that could be shared in an elevator between floors.
- Dress appropriately for the occasion: Some networking functions are very formal - dig out your corporate suit - and others you can get away with jeans. If in doubt, check with the host.
- If networking scares you: Find a networking “buddy” to attend events with but don't stick with them the whole time! Remember you are there to meet new people so make sure you both circulate and get to know people.
- Give without expectation: It is a real buzz to be able to help someone find where they can get what they need or want, even if it has nothing to do with coaching – and sooner or later, “what goes around, comes around”.
- Acknowledge graciously: If you enjoyed the event and/or the presentation, send a short note of appreciation to the host and/or the presenter. It will be valued and they will remember who you are if the opportunity for a referral arises.
10 Things To Avoid When LIfe Coach Networking In Person
Some of the best business networking tips and tricks are what NOT to do if you want to make good connections with people so they will want to talk to you again and not flee when you appear.
- Be a spider networker: That is, pounce on people and tie them up in a web of conversation that is all about you and what you do, rather than being interested in who they are and what they do.
- Get stuck with one person: Learn to handle networking spiders and elegantly get out of conversation with someone who wants to stick with you. Saying there is someone across the room you just have to speak to or you just have to go the the bathroom are possible strategies.
- Only talk with people you know: Whilst it is great to catch up with your friends for a quick chat – the idea is to meet new people and establish new relationships or reinforce a connection you made at the last meeting.
- Immediately provide too much detail about what your services: Unless someone indicates a real interest, you will bore them silly and they will want to escape. Keep what you do brief and concise and express it in a way that invites questions.
- Make absolute judgments about people from first impressions:
How a person is dressed, the way they speak and so on can often lead to a lot of misplaced assumptions that they are not worth talking to and moving on too soon. Jump to conclusions and you could miss out on a valuable connection.
- Spread yourself too thinly: Better to attend a couple of networks regularly and become known and trusted, than be an occasional face at many. It's about creating credibility and ongoing relationships.
- Hold aside conversations during any presentation: Apart from being rude to the speaker, it’s distracting for others and won’t earn you any brownie points with possible contacts in the audience.
- Book but not attend without letting your host know: This can be really annoying for the host for catering purposes, especially if there is a waiting list to attend. Yes I know you've paid but that's not the point!
If there was absolutely no way you could let your host know because of a last minute emergency, send a short note of apology or ring at your earliest opportunity.
- No follow up: Promise somebody you meet that you will follow up on a contact or referral and then not do it. Try to do all your follows up on the same day as the meeting or at least within 48 hours.
- Complain loudly: Don't loudly carry on about not liking the food, the speaker, the venue, parking etc. If there is anything that does not meet your expectations complain quietly to the host or, better still, send an email after the event acknowledging was was good but expressing your concerns. Once again, your outcome is to build long term positive relationships, not try to prove a point.
Finding Your Best Social Media Networking Groups
The world is your networking oyster when you go online for social media networking.
Online or virtual business networking platforms such Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and and the like means that networking regionally and globally is well within the reach of anyone. And you don't have to dress up or arm yourself with business cards to do it!
And if you need to have a face to face conversation with a contact or prospect you have made half-way across the world, there is always Zoom of some other meeting platform.
On all these social media platforms you can join various groups with a shared life coaching interest to initiate discussions and make comments. You can also join groups where you see the potential for adding value and establishing useful relationships.
There are things to be aware of when joining groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.
1. Is the special interest group well moderated? Some life coaching groups are so full or irrelevant and self-promotion posts that there are no real discussions. This means making good connections is really hard. So have a good look at the quality of the posts and the comments before you get too busy posting.
2. What is the purpose of the group? Many groups for life coaches are set up by life coaches in the hope of attracting clients. Nothing wrong with that and you might even consider doing it yourself.
However, the host coach, while giving great advice and starting good conversations, will most likely not encourage a contributions from another coach wanting to make connections with possible clients.
3. Coaches are the target market. There are also people who set up groups aimed at life coaches where the agenda of the group host is to to market business building their services or products to coaches. Neither of these groups will give you the networking opportunities you need.
One group I would highly recommend you check out is Coaches Helping Coaches which was founded by life coach Emma Louise Elsey of The Coaching Tools Company. It's strictly moderated (I'm actually a volunteer moderator) to help keep the main wall clear for genuine discussions and questions about coaching yet offers plenty of opportunities for self-promotion.
It's a fantastic resource for new and aspiring coaches. The Coaching Tools Company also puts out a value packed newsletter each month often with free offers and great articles which I highly recommend.
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Eight Social Media Networking Tips
Good social networking manners are very important if you are to engage people so they want to connect with you. Here are some of my favourites as well as some pitfalls to avoid.
- Make it personal: When inviting someone to join a network such as LinkedIn or “be your friend” on Facebook, don’t just use the formatted message. Try and give a reason why you want to connect and make it sound sincere.
Maybe remind them where you have met or what your mutual connection is. I have met so many people over the years, that I often need reminding who’s who or where I met them or I might just decline.
- Where do you know me from? If you can’t recall where you have met the person inviting you to join their social media network, send a message asking where you met, or how you are connected etc. This will weed out the social business network spammers who just want to build their list.
- Don’t just promote yourself: Avoid just using the network to make announcements or promote you coaching or products. This will just annoy people and may not get you the results you want.
Join in the discussions with opinion and information and start your own discussions. As people in the forum groups get to know you, what you do and what you have to say, they are far more likely to respond to any announcements you have to make regarding your coaching or an event and pay a visit to your website or FaceBook page.
- Make your discussions engaging: When starting a discussion, write a little more than just the heading. Engage your reader in a conversation and maybe ask for feedback or comment.
- Add links to your website: With any comment you make, where it is appropriate (and possible) include a link to the relevant page on your own website or blog that could add more value. This way people will get to see more of who you are and what you do.
- Be NICE! Have opinions in your comments, but be nice about it. Whilst it's OK to have a "robust" conversations one-on-one, putting caustic or personal comments out into cyberspace is a whoe different ball game that can get you into trouble or even banned from a group that is strictly moderated. And it certainly won't win you any clients.
- 4. Be careful where you commenting or contributing content. This can be a real trap for the unwary. You want to make sure where you contribute content or comments is worth the effort and not a waste of your time. I've written a piece on the Benefits and Traps of Guest Blogging that can help. See the related pages at the end of this page.
- Finally, be selective of friending those who ask to connect with you. It's great that someone want to your friend, or talk to you on Messenger, but be choosey. This is up to you of course, but I've got into the habit of checking out the personal profile of anyone who wants to friend or have a message conversation with me me to see if this is someone I really want to connect with.
I check their profile to see if they look as if they want to connect merely to promote their services to me or if they have philosophies or beliefs that are simply not compatible with mine before I accept.
Avoid these outsourcing traps
A lot of coaches (me included), find keeping up a constant stream of social media posts a real chore. The solution that is often advised is to outsource your posting to a social media "expert". They will either edit and post what you have written or create posts from your website content. Sounds great but make sure you check they...
a) Understand your voice. That is use language you would use and write in a way that connects with your audience. Until you are confident of this, best to check the proposed posts before they are posted.
b) Make sure you or the person you outsource to actually read the rules of the forum. Also follow up and check that the post has been posted and if not, take notice of any feedback. This is especially necessary when a post is being place on multiple social media forums as a routine process.
Why? On some forums that are strictly moderated (like the Coaches Helping Coaches forum where I am one of the moderators), there are strict rules on what will and will not be accepted on the main wall. If these rules are constantly broken you may be banned from that forum.
So the bottom line here is not to "delegate by abdication" when you outsource your social media posting, but keep a close eye on how the outsourcing is working for you.
In conclusion, however you choose to do networking in person or online, it should be an enjoyable experience as well as a great marketing strategy that builds your profile, gives you credibility as a coach and attracts clients.