Read Up. Skill Up. Be In Demand
Networking has clearly done fantastic things for business and entrepreneurs the world over, but some get more out of it than others. How comfortable at you with meeting new people, in a new place, and for business purposes?
Unsurprisingly, many of us fear networking. In fact, nobody is born great at networking. It’s a skill that takes practice and confidence to get right.
Interestingly, being good at networking is less about your own personality type, and more about knowing how to make the most of the people around you in a short space of time.
We’ve put together a guide to networking that any seasoned professional would agree with – and we hope it will help you to navigate your upcoming event with ease.
1. Make Networking a Habit
Many people only start networking when they want something. It may be a job, a work contract, or simply to rub shoulders with inspirational people. This is a massive mistake – by diving into the deep end without any practice, you may end up making a bad impression, and scare away potential business contacts.
By making networking a habit, you will naturally improve your ability to mingle, connect, and make contacts that may prove useful when you genuinely do need something.
2. Develop an Objective
At any event – whether it’s a business brunch or a day-long seminar – it is crucial to know what you want to get out of it.
By developing an objective – even if it is simply “to meet five new people” – you’ll be motivated to truly engage with fellow attendees. By giving yourself a target, you’ll be more focused when networking, and may end up making useful connections that lead to new job opportunities.
You will also come across as business-minded, and you’ll make the best use of other attendees’ time. Ask what people do for a living, and how they heard about the event. In the majority of cases, fellow attendees will reveal their true motivation for attending – their own objective – by answering these two simple questions.
3. Take a Friend Along
One of the best ways to effectively network is to go along with a friend. By going along with someone else, you will double your chances of making useful connections, and always have someone to return to when you’re finished mingling.
Your networking buddy may also invite you along to events they know about, and integrate you with a bigger, ready-made network. You can introduce one another to different people, and keep conversation flowing.
Plus, if you’re shy, having someone around to help field questions and describe what you do is invaluable.
4. Make Sure You Actually Attend
On that same note – make sure you don’t duck out of attending networking events!
Even if you’re shy, introverted, or simply don’t feel like going, you will most likely feel a lot better once you’re at the event. It can take courage to conquer your fear of mixing with others, but there are a few ways you can truly commit – and go – to your next one:
- Book a paid ticket (the monetary value will make you more motivated to attend)
- Agree to go with a buddy (you will feel more confident and committed)
- Tell others you’re going (this will hold your accountable to “reporting back”)
- Share the event on social media (this can boost your profile, and also hold you accountable to going)
Once you’ve made some form of commitment, the chances are you will go and benefit from the knowledge shared and the people there.
5. Start the Conversation
This is probably the hardest part – and what we all dread. But why does starting a conversation cause us all so much fear?
There’s only three outcomes when talking to someone:
- They respond warmly and you have a great conversation
- They respond coldly and you break it off
- They don’t respond at all
For the latter, it may either be that they didn’t hear you (in which case, speak up!) or they’re rude, and not worth talking to anyway.
To overcome your hesitation when starting a conversation with someone new, one of the simplest tricks you can use is to find someone exactly like you. If you’re alone, speak to another person who is by themselves – chances are, they’ll be so happy you rescued them from social exclusion that you’ll have a great conversation. If you’re thirsty, head to the drinks and chat with someone else who’s grabbing a sip. If it’s a seated event, ask someone if you can sit next to them, and then introduce yourself.
And if you do find yourself at an awkward pause, don’t worry. It’s normal for things not to flow as easily as talking to a friend or colleague, and in the end, you don’t have to please everyone.
6. Finish on a Call to Action
Any marketeer worth their salt will tell you every activity needs a call to action. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, it means a phrase that tells the listener to take an action – usually to make a sale.
Whether you’re finishing a meeting over coffee, or have spent 45 minutes chatting with a whole host of people, each conversation should end with an action point for both parties to take away.
A few examples:
- Arrange another meeting
- Book in a video call
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Schedule another meeting
- Swap contact details
At the bare minimum, make sure to swap business cards so you can look them up later and follow up with them when the appropriate time comes.