Top 10 Tips for... Making Networking Easy
Top 10 tips for making networking easy
Are you nervous about networking? You’re not alone. The idea of networking often makes many people uncomfortable, confused or even downright terrified. Self-promotion just doesn’t seem very British.
When most people think about networking it can seem insincere at best and selfish at worst. Those notions are the complete opposite of what networking is supposed to be — friendly, useful, and genuine.
Effective business networking links individuals who become walking advertisements for each other through a process of trust and relationship building.
Here are our top ten tips to make networking easy.
1. Have a plan
Have a goal in mind for what you want from participating in networking events. That will help you pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some groups are based more on learning, making contacts and volunteering rather than on making real business connections. If you have a plan it will be easier to stay focused and achieve the outcome you want, as you will end up speaking to the right people and stay on track in your conversations.
2. Help others people get over their discomfort
If you are nervous, it’s not just you. At any networking event, there will probably be lots of people talking to each other, but you’ll probably also notice several people sitting at tables looking at their invitation or talking on their phones. These people are probably nervous about talking to new people, so they are avoiding it by looking busy. Help them out by going and introducing yourself. If you break the ice and make life easier for them they are bound to be grateful, will definitely remember you, and it could lead to some interesting opportunities.
3. Ask open questions
When you’re speaking to people, try and ask open-ended questions that ask who, what, where, when, instead of those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. That way you will open up discussion and show listeners that you are interested in them.
4. Tell people what you’re looking for
Too often during networking opportunities someone will say “How can I help you?” and no immediate answer comes readily to mind. Try and summarise the kind of collaboration you’re interested in and how other people can help you. That could save a lot of time and ensure you get the maximum benefit from the connections you make.
5. Pull, don’t push
Networking is all about conversation. It’s also about finding out more about the other person rather than telling them about you or your company. People don’t really care about what you do until they are satisfied that you care about what they do. You need to earn the right to be heard about what you do and what your goals and ambitions are. Don’t push a conversation – it will lead to irritation rather than collaboration. Just gently pull on the conversation by asking people about themselves.
6. Become known as a valuable resource
Try to gain a reputation for being helpful. If you can demonstrate that you are a valuable resource, either because of your connections, your local knowledge, a particular skill or service you can offer others, or even because of your friendly, open personality, people will remember you. They will also come back to you for help, information and ideas, and you’ll stay in the forefront of their minds. Before long, that will lead to other connections and referrals.
7. Be genuine and authentic
People know when you are really taking an interest in them and when you’re not. Build trust by really listening to what they are saying. If you’re interested in talking to someone and their business solely for the sake of learning about them you’ll leave them with a lasting of impression as someone who genuinely cares and isn’t just out for what they can get from the connection.
8. Focus on quality, not quantity
You don’t have to know the most people – just the right people. You don’t have to send out bulk emails to potential collaborators or bombard everyone at a networking event with your business cards. Focus your efforts on finding people relevant to you. It’s much more valuable to have 5 people who are willing to work with you than having 500 who just know your name.
9. Follow up effectively
After you’ve been to a networking event make sure you email every person you had direct contact with. When you do, make sure you mention something from your discussion. If there’s a referral you can give to them, include that in the email too. Following up is the most neglected part of networking. As so many people fail to follow up, if you do so you are demonstrating that you are interested in building an effective relationship.
10. Nurture your existing network
Networking is often focused on reaching out to new people, but don’t forget about the network you already have. You don’t have to wait to meet new people to start connecting others or sharing useful information. It can often be beneficial to network within the groups you already know.
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