SummaryNetworking: What is it and How do you do it?
A definition is provided by the Oxford Dictionary: network n. & v. a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes.
You might consider networking to make new friends, find a new job, develop your current career, explore new career options, obtain referrals or sales leads, or simply to broaden your professional horizons. Whatever the reason, it is important to focus on networking as an equal exchange of information, contacts or experiences.
Networking helps you make connections in a personal context to build relationships of support, respect and to create mutual benefits. It is a skill set no serious professional can be without.Networking Steps
Early Bird – Much of the intimidation factor is the sheer size of the audience. So arrive very early and even offer to help set up. This gives you a chance to meet the organisers and other volunteers in a small setting. Busy work will help take your mind off the event and knowing the hosts make you feel like a part of the team. Often they will repay you for your help by making some introductions for you.
Comfort – Take into account the dress code of the event and don’t go to an extreme on either side. You will feel how you dress. You are already going to be nervous so don’t make it worse by wearing the wrong suit. Wear something that you believe you look good in – if you think you look good you will feel good.
Co-Pilot – Attend with a friend who is in a different business and help each other navigate the crowd. If you can go with someone who is more extroverted that would be a bonus, but the goal is having a partner. You can take turns introducing each other to new people.
Seek introverts – They are easy to spot – look for the people who look as uncomfortable as you feel! Approach such people and introduce yourself – they are just as anxious as you are. This allows you to practice approaching other people.
Set Goals – Networking and interacting amongst a room of strangers cannot be conquered in one day. Set goals that involve meeting people: Commit to introducing yourself to 5 new people.
Follow Up – This is the crucial step! How you respond sets the tone for who you are and how others remember you. Send each person an individual message, be it a phone call or email and make it memorable by personalising the message. Prioritise:
- First, those you want to contact immediately within 48 hours of the initial meeting
- The next list should be those you contact within a week
- The rest you will contact within 3 weeks but don’t leave it any longer!
In many networking events there is a dedicated time to "mix" with the other attendees before or after the formal programme. Plan and prepare how you will "work the room" to get the most from your efforts. At some events the organiser circulates the attendee list in advance and you can ask for personal introductions to key people.
- Get yourself in the right state. Walk in, head high, shoulders back and smile.
- Wear your name badge on the right because people read from left to right.
- Start with personal introductions from the host with the key people you want to meet. If time is limited see the most important people first.
- You will see people on their own, open 2‘s and 3’s. They will be welcoming. Beware of the closed 2’s 3’s and 4+ groups unless there are people in there you already know.
- Small talk is the foundation of all relationships. Home surroundings, holidays and travel, sports interests and hobbies, current events and family. Be sensitive to the last topic
- Limit the time you spend with anyone to 10 minutes and move on
- Move on from groups if you are not part of the conversation. Excuse yourself and start again approaching people alone, open two’s and three’s.
- Practice an effective handshake. Avoid the "bone-crusher" or the "limp fish." Go for a firm and vigorous handshake
- Make sure you introduce yourself by:
- Saying your name clearly and confidently
- Describe what you do in twenty seconds or less.
- Maintain eye contact at all times.
- Offer your business card
- Ask the other person for theirs
- Many networking events are organised by Business organisations like Business Links.
- Register your details on the relevant business websites to be notified of upcoming events.
- Sign up for newsletters that flag up free lectures or seminars to attend
- Look out for innovation or incubation centres in your area because they host networking events
- Browse the University websites for upcoming business events
- Sign up for new business courses through your local Business Link and network other delegates and speakers during the day
- Source lists of networking clubs from any events you attend and join the one that suits your needs.
Article by Jim Melling of Melling Consulting m 07875 – 345091 e: firstname.lastname@example.org