Oh, 'networking', that mucky word that has people either reaching for their business cards or frantically thinking of excuses why they simply can’t attend that event or function.
Don’t be scared. Embrace it. But be true to yourself in doing so. And this is why:
Networking connects people together, and this connection may or may not bear fruit one day. It doesn’t necessarily mean winning a contract or making a newbiz contact but meeting someone new who enriches your life in any way - an insightful comment, an experienced operator, or tips or tricks for doing better business. Networking, especially online, is an opportunity to learn, share and gain insight as much as gain contacts, business or even find a new job! Getting to know people truthfully could lead to the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship, especially if you have enough in common to stay in touch.
Many people are afraid of networking, but we network every day - with our family, colleagues and friends. It’s no worse that walking into your local boozer or wine bar and introducing yourself to your mate’s mate (in fact, you'll be surprised that in practice it's actually a lot easier than that). Just prepare a little patter to explain who you are, what you are about and maybe what you do. Keep it short, make it entertaining if possible, and see if what you are saying registers at all or if their eyes glaze over.
You already know the net worth of your network? In what way has your network brought benefit to you personally or professionally. That is its true net worth. If you throw out a post or question, do people respond, or react? Will they help you? You can calculate time saved, costs saved and corners shortened by going directly to your network for help, answers or suggestions but networks must work both ways. As so often in life it is better to give than receive so be generous with your support to your network and you will reap your reward.
10 features of a networker with high net worth
They ask ‘what do you do?’ Keep it friendly and the questions wide open
They listen to you. Come on my course and learn all about active listening
They link what you say to themselves. No left-field subject changes but a natural flow
They speak about themselves, but they keep short and memorable, even entertaining
They make contact info handy, so no rummaging in handbags or searching back for the elusive email signature
They show ‘clear and interested’ communication or body language - nothing confusing, threatening or seemingly disinterested, no one-syllable answers or emails
They mingle and move on with ease so you don’t feel dumped, dismissed or ignored
They always follow-up, when there’s a reason to do so or if it would be welcome
They stay in touch without being ‘in your face’ and pestering
They make the effort to go to events and functions, regularly
Whether you like it or not, if you work in business, then you have to build a strong network (and LinkedIn in makes it so easy; sites like Meetup.com are also invaluable for finding new events in your field of interest). If you want to sharpen your networking skills, add a little sparkle to your conversation, overcome your fears of walking into a room full of strangers or build your confidence in how to meet people (or get away from people) then come on my networking course which is run by the PRCA. It's half a day of hilarious fun and by the end everyone leaves the room brimming with ideas and confidence.
Finally, if you want more tips on networking, check out our MD Phil Szomszor's blog post on sociable business networking - it was written back in 2010, but the advice is just as relevant today.
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