Networking without nightmares

Love it or hate it we all need to network at some point in our lives. Some basic tips and pointers can help us to network with confidence and overcome common anxieties.

Naturally we believe networking to be the preserve of the extrovert. But not all extroverts are necessarily good networkers.

The key to being a good networker, like most social skills, is to be a good listener.

The best way to network is to plan and to leverage your natural strengths. Most people make the mistake of forcing themselves on others and pretend to be outgoing.  The best approach is to be yourself. Here are my top 10 tips for stress free and successful networking.

  • “Don’t work the room” this is a common mistake. Your objective should be to build meaningful relationships. Don’t just collect business cards. It is better to walk away having built one productive business relationship than to have collected 50 business cards.
  • When you meet someone for the first time use this as an opportunity to get to know them. Don’t try and sell them anything; focus on building a relationship.
  • Ask open questions rather than talk about yourself. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn.
  • When you arrive at a networking event, avoid gravitating towards people you already know. Remember you are here to build new relationships and network. You should thank the host immediately; they may help introduce you to your first useful contact.
  • In conversation try and use the person’s name two or three times. People naturally respond well to hearing their name and it demonstrates that they are important to you. It will also help you to remember their name after the event.
  • The best location to network is in high traffic areas such as the bar or when you’re waiting in line or near the food. Avoiding sparking up a conversation around the toilets 🙂
  • Avoid being cornered by the bore. Yes, there is always one. Remember it’s your time they’re wasting, and they’re only interested in themselves. Be firm. Be polite – “I must circulate”, “I need a drink” – say what you need to get away.
  • A good way to demonstrate your networking skills is to introduce each new person to at least one other person.
  • Never try and barge into a group of 4 or more people. Come alongside them and wait for eye contact from a minimum of two before you attempt to enter the conversation. Be careful not to butt in on two people talking as you could be interrupting an important conversation.
  • Be a saviour and initiate conversation with someone who is standing by themselves. They’ll be grateful and it could lead to a valuable relationship.

After the event take time to evaluate. Ask yourself was this the right event for you? Did you achieve what you set out to do? What did you achieve and what would you do better the next time? And always follow up within 48 hours with your new contacts before they forget you.