Being given a name tag and told to ‘mingle’ with others in your industry. Arriving at a launch event and not knowing a single person, standing with a drink in hand.
Attending a conference or expo where the name of the game is meeting the movers and shakers. If this fills you with dread, don’t worry – most people feel that. However, networking is powerful, useful and so often essential, so feel the fear and do it anyway. Let us convince you…
Being active in your industry
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to be big behind a screen or a figure everyone has heard of but no one knows. You need to press the flesh, for want of a better phrase, and getting out there and meeting your contemporaries in the industry is key. Making connections with people who operate in your sphere, even your competitors, is important not least for the fact you’ll be known and experienced in real life by others, and them by you. Sometimes it’s those who are most active in the events in their industries that shine brightest, not through their talent or skill, so a little bit of a real life presence and making an appearance at networking opportunities is important for your own standing in your industry.
Little black book
A successful businessperson is nothing without their book of contacts. Those key people they can call on for a favour, those contacts they know always deliver and those other businesses who they work incredibly well with. The world of business is fuelled by deals, meetings and exchanges. Networking, if for anything else, is about populating that little black book. No one can do business alone, it’s simply not possible.
Never judge a book
You can never plan for how a conversation may turn. Don’t be too hasty and don’t judge a book by it’s cover because sometimes it’s the least likely contacts that you meet at a networking event that turn out to be the most interesting or beneficial. Have an open mind, give others a chance and see what stories they have before making up your mind. You may often be surprised, or even guilty that you had one idea or opinion about them that was entirely unfounded.
Becoming the oracle
Everyone admires the person in the know. That individual who can instantly connect someone to the contact they need. A modern day business matchmaker, but what is this kind of oracle? There’s no real secret to it – that person has just been highly skilled at networking, and it shows. Meeting lots of different people, making a mental note, memorising their names and what they do. Why? Because it comes in seriously handy down the line. You never know when you might need a favour, want a more in-depth chat or have some work for that person you met at an event a few months back.
Ease into the small talk sphere
Long table dinners or “let’s go around the room” situations can instantly form panic in some people, especially introverts or those who are anxious at networking events. But sitting down beside a couple of people and getting to know them, rather than an entire room, can be really beneficial and a great way to ease into the whole networking sphere – which can be overwhelming for some. Make small steps before giant leaps.
Know when to back out
There’s nothing worse than being backed into a corner by one particular person you’ve met at a networking session and not being able to get away from them to meet some other potentially more interesting, more important or more relevant future contacts. Know your exit strategy, whilst still being kind and polite. Offer a “it was really wonderful to meet you, hopefully we cross paths again” formality to wrap things up or exchange a business card and bid a warm but firm goodbye. If you’re pushing yourself to network, once off to a good start keep going and keep meeting more. Don’t let yourself get held back.
Never stop listening
The skill of listening is more important than the skill of speaking quite often. Always have an ear open and be willing to listen (and really listen) to those you’re networking with. There’s nothing less inspiring than talking to someone who clearly isn’t listening, eyes glazing over and looking for the next networking opportunity. That person won’t get far and won’t create real connections. Don’t be that person.
Know your worth
Are you nervous or anxious about networking because you’re under confident in your own ability or what you do? Feel confidence and assertion in what you do and who you are. If you feel inferior to others at a networking event, how do you know they don’t feel inferior themselves? Know your worth and lead with confidence. Confidence inspires confidence.