Most people attend networking events to gain something: job leads, referrals, exposure, connections, opportunities to grow their business. True networking occurs when there’s an understanding that everyone in the room has equal value. In its purest form, it’s about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”
Get off your computer – Yes, email and social media can be a good way to make initial contact, but if you want to really initiate true forward momentum in the relationship, get them in the real world as soon as possible. Suggest going to lunch or coffee or accompanying one another to an interesting industry event. However you do it, taking a new professional relationship offline as early as possible is the single best way to set yourself apart from the constant flow of internet noise. Working in a virtual office can make it hard to make these relationships however, you need to make the effort.
Set goals – It’s important to set small, attainable goals that measure the success of each piece of your business, all of which feed the larger overall goals. “Landing two new clients this month” is not a networking goal. Even if that is your end game, set benchmarks relating directly to your networking efforts. Watch how, when applied to all branches of your business, these mini goals not only fuel your sense of constant accomplishment, but quickly add up to fulfilling those overarching goals.
Be Prepared – If you don’t have a pitch ready then practise how you are going to introduce yourself. Remember your pitch can be different depending on your reason for attending that event. For example if you are there to learn about a particular subject then say that as part of your pitch, or if you are there to make connections in a certain industry then say that as you introduce yourself to others.
Recognise Opportunities – There are many opportunities for networking so say yes to the project at work, or the committee meeting or the event you see. Also look at other networks in your life, such as friends, hobbies, volunteer groups, sports, social events etc and start thinking about the people in those groups. It is likely that a lot of people in your life are not considered as part of your network but when you start reaching out and talking about what you need help with, you will probably find a lot more assistance than you realised.
Mind your manners – Networking might have it’s own additional set of rules and customs, but all of society’s normal, mannerly expectations still apply. Try to listen more than you talk, be thoughtful in your interactions and generous with your time when you can. Being perceived as professionally weak is something to avoid, but trust us – that never happens as a result of having good manners.
Business networking should be an integral part of your professional development, and a little practising will go a long way. Happy networking!
We hope these tips help you with your Networking endeavours. If you have any further queries please feel free to talk to our team to see how we can help you.