Contrary to popular opinion, networking isn’t just for hungry professionals set on self-promotion. In fact, in a professional world increasingly focused on online communication, networking brings a unique opportunity to make valuable industry connections face-to-face.
Although networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, there’s a plenty of ways to expand on your skills and start schmoozing. Don’t miss out on making valuable connections just because you’re afraid to network.
Once you decide you want to get better at networking, you’ll open the door to a world of new business opportunities.
Get yourself organised before you even think about attending networking events. Don’t risk looking unprofessional by showing up totally underprepared.
Networking events bring together professionals who want to generate useful business connections for future opportunities. Stay up to date with current trends in the industry to establish meaningful discussions and show other networkers that you’re an expert in your field!
You could talk a great game, but people won’t care unless you’re talking directly to them. Add a personal touch by learning people’s names. If you struggle with remembering names, contact the organiser beforehand and get a list of the people attending.
This is also great for planning talking points. If you feel like you’re running out of steam in the conversation, simply relax and use one of the questions you’ve prepared beforehand.
You might be naturally shy, but that doesn’t always wash in business. Adopt a confident persona. Sometimes putting on your best suit or favourite outfit can help you get into character.
There’s no point in hanging around and waiting for the other person to make the first move. Take the leap by introducing yourself with a handshake and a smile. Don’t forget to use eye contact either!
Being confident and smiling will naturally draw people towards you. You don’t have to be constantly grinning at everyone (as this will have the opposite effect of scaring people away) but creating a positive atmosphere around you will help the impression that you make on other networkers.
Be a good listener
As the old saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, we should all be great at listening, right? The problem that many of us have going into networking events, however, is that we arrive with an agenda. We’re too ready to jump in with what we want to say, and we forgot to listen.
By listening more effectively, you and your networking partner can quickly learn what you need to about each other. You’ll be able to decide whether this is a valuable relationship to take forward.
Listen to what the other person is saying and engage with this. Being a good networker is having the ability to hear people out. If you can, offer solutions and find opportunities to proactively help them. This will show that you’re a good contact to depend upon further down the line.
Bring along some business cards
So, you’re getting into the swing of things at a great networking event. You’re having an interesting discussion with a potential business contact. But how should you leave the conversation?
This is where a business card can come in useful. It invites the other person to get in touch, as well as being a formal gesture to round off the conversation. A good business card should:
- Contain your name, profession, phone number and email
- Have a sensible font, in a clearly readable font size
- Be printed on a plain, white background
- Have a clear logo that represents your company
- Be short and concise
Follow up conversations
Following up on conversations you’ve had shows that you have a collaborative working attitude. Many people don’t bother following up anymore, but what’s the point of networking if you’re not going to action the great conversations that you’ve had?
Whether you decide to send an email through as a friendly reminder, wish them well when it’s their birthday or randomly send through documents you think might be of interest, keep up the contact.
This don’t mean spamming their inbox every day to the point where they’re forced to block you – choose carefully selected material every so often that will keep you at the back of their mind.
Make the most of social media
Social media is an essential part of the post-networking process. Sites like LinkedIn allow you to build a profile to showcase who you are and what you do. It’s essentially a social network for those who want to grow their careers and connect with other professionals.
After networking events, take the time to search and connect with the contacts that you’ve made to really make an impact. You’ll expand your professional network and stay in the loop with any important changes in their career. Just make sure your profile is up to date too!
The struggles of networking
Don’t panic if you don’t get better at networking straight away. You can’t expect to go to one or two networking events and emerge victoriously with a list of top contacts. You should work on growing your networking skill set, slowly but surely.
Stay calm and follow the steps above. Remember, there’s plenty of other networkers out there who probably feel as nervous as you! Who knows, you might even bag yourself a promotion.