Okay, we know that Christmas is still a fair way away, but as you will know – the festivities are already beginning, and perhaps you’re already counting down the days until your time off. With Christmas season in swing, your calendar is almost certainly filling up with all kinds of events and that means you’ll be having to do some networking.
For many people, networking often springs a few things to mind: awkward small talk, a quick exchange of business cards, or a ‘I’m washing my hair that night’-type of excuse to get out of it. But really, you shouldn’t be afraid at all – especially at Christmas time when people are (mostly) in good spirits.
Networking done well can be brilliant for you and your business. Not every connection you make will lead to something valuable – but you never know where a new connection may come in handy down the line, or how you may be enriched by an unexpected conversation or tip.
Whatever your attitude to networking, try and embrace it this festive season, and be true to yourself as you do so. We all network every day without realising – we meet a friend of a friend, or a new contact in a business meeting, and more. Meeting people at an event is not any different to these scenarios – you just need to be prepared on how to explain who you are, what you do, and what you’re all about. If you can do that in a concise and entertaining way as well, then it’s hard to go wrong.
Sometimes it takes a little help though to know how to get to that point, so I’ve put together my top 10 tips for networking like a pro:
- Ask ‘what do you do?’ Keep it friendly and the questions wide open
- Listen to other people. I have a networking course that teaches active listening – come give it a try!
- Link what they say to what you do. No left-field subject changes but a natural flow
- Speak about yourself, but keep it short and memorable, even entertaining
- Make your contact info handy, so you don’t have to rummage in your bag or search for a LinkedIn URL
- Show ‘clear and interested’ communication and body language – nothing confusing, threatening or seemingly disinterested, and no one-syllable answers
- Mingle and move on with ease, that way you or your conversation partner won’t feel dumped, dismissed or ignored
- Be sure to always follow-up when there’s a reason to do so or if it would be welcome
- Stay in touch without being ‘in your face’ and pestering – like a simple follow on Twitter
- Make the effort to go to events and functions, regularly
Whether you’re a natural interactor or a ‘grit your teeth and bear it’ kind of networker, communicating and building relationships is incredibly important for those working in business. You need to have a strong business network, and it’s not hard to do with the help of platforms like LinkedIn, Rungway, Eventbrite and more.
Should you want to do some more work on your networking skills, bring some sparkle to your event conversation or just get used to speaking to strangers, then do come on my networking course which is run by the PRCA. It’s half a day of hilarious fun, and people always leave smiling and full of ideas. The next one is on 24 November, just in time for the Christmas season – hope to see you there!