To be a good networker you need to practise the art of good conversation, understand the fine line between selling yourself without overdoing it, and above all you need to be brave enough to step out of your comfort zone. What good networking really comes down to is building relationships, and as with all relationships, building trust and confidence takes time. So how should you approach networking? Here are our top tips for effective networking.
1. Get ready.
Like with most things, the planning and preparation work you do ahead of time will exponentially improve the result. If you are going to an event, think about who you would like to connect with and what you would like to get out of a conversation with them. When you have your list of people try to figure out something you have in common with them, maybe you both know a person, share a hobby, or your kids go to the same school, whatever it is starting the conversation by mentioning common grounds will always be great ice breaker. And with your questions, write them down and have them in your pocket, and if you need to have to look – do - people will value that you are interested enough to prepare.
2. Don’t be late.
Whether you are attending an event or meeting an individual, arriving early is a great idea. Events tend to be quieter and calmer, making it an easier environment to connect with people. Walking into a crowded and noisy room, where people are already engaged in conversation, makes an already daunting experience that much harder. And if it is more of a meeting than an event, arriving early gives you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the surrounding and to prepare yourself.
3. Listen first.
Although it may be counterintuitive, a good place to start is to simply listen. Remember that a great networker is a conversationalist, not a talker. If you listen to the needs of others, you’ll easily be able to offer the right solutions when the time comes. Start a conversation by simply walking up to a person or group and asking if you may join them. Ask simple questions, and then make sure you listen intently to their replies. Remember that body language speaks louder than words, so be sure to look people in the eye and smile.
4. Authenticity is key.
All too often people see networking events as an extended sales pitch, but as networking is all about building relationships you should be focusing more on making real connections than selling your product or service. Keep your conversations lighthearted and informal with the aim of simply starting a conversation. If the conversation does lead to your business, then be sure to speak passionately about what you do. Your authentic enthusiasm is sure to be contagious and make for a memorable conversation.
5. Follow up.
Make sure that your networking efforts have the biggest impact, by following up on leads after the initial contact. Be sure to ask for the best way to keep in touch and then follow up in a way that is professional but not pushy. Whether you send an email, note or even a friendly phone call, make sure you get in touch soon and mention something you discussed in your initial chat so that your contact remembers you.
6. Practise makes perfect.
To be successful at networking you need to study and practise, and soon enough it will become second nature. The more you engage and interact with other people, the more comfortable you will feel having conversations with people, and the better results you will achieve.
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Have a great day, and remember it is never too late to create a life and career you love!
HANNA GIRLING, wife, mother, business owner, coach, sport enthusiast and forever an optimist.