Networking, what's that all about?

(networking)

To interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.

"the skills of networking, bargaining, and negotiation"

It seems lately, at any type of social event, if you add the word “networking” in there – somewhere – you get a good excuse to get out of the office.

Networking breakfast

Networking lunch

Networking evening

Networking day trip to Disney Land!

Typically, people have one of two opinions on networking and you may fall into one of these categories:

Category a: “It’s just an excuse to get out the office!” “You meet the same people at each event, absolutely pointless!” “It’s not right for our business, we have never got any business from networking.”

Category b: “I love networking, it’s who I am and I enjoy it.” “We get most of our business through networking!” “Networking has really helped our brand and now the market knows who we are.”

So, which one are you? And what is the difference between the two?

I’m not here to change your opinion on networking – you feel it either works for you or it doesn’t. But what I can do is give you some simple tips to help maximise your efforts at these events.

It all comes down to three simple steps.

Step one: Planning.

What do you want to get out of the event? You decide and you plan how you are going to reach your outcome.

Is it to get your brand out there? Is it to meet new contacts? Or maybe to get new business leads?

Whatever it may be, you must create a plan on how you are going to achieve this and your angle at the event. Don’t give people information overload. You offer 101 services? That’s great – pick one and lead with that, preferably a service or product your competitors don’t offer.

Step two: It’s not all about you.

You must realise every attendee at these events also wants to promote their business. If you have a habit of talking about you, your business, who your clients are, how much money you can save a business right off the cuff before fully understanding who you are talking to I can tell you – you have already lost.

Remember the common saying, people buy from people – not businesses? This does not lose its credibility when it comes to networking.

There are lots of great tips on how to communicate with potential customers which we could go into, but here are a couple to get you started...

Presentation: First impressions on this occasion do matter most. You may only get a 30 second window to make an introduction so make sure it’s a good one. When introducing your business, try to use an emotional connection to your job description.

An example would be: “Officially, I’m a New Business Development Executive for an IT provider, but what this really means is I take away the worry of IT from business owners so they can concentrate on more important things, such as running their business.”

Keep it short. Keep it to the point.

Likeability: Present yourself as professional but also as a human being. It’s not illegal to talk about common interests outside of the workplace at these events. Be mindful of your topics to avoid debates but ask questions about themselves, listen and be polite.

 “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  ― Maya Angelou

Step three: Confidence.

People always look hostile as this is how we interpret them. Most of the people in the room will just feel as awkward as you, so don’t be afraid to initiate conversation. Honesty is key and so is positivity, so why not start off a conversation with something like “…you look like someone worth talking to…” or “…can I join this conversation?”. Ask questions and listen to the responses, develop what is known as “empathetic listening”.

Here is a good link to get you started:

https://www.crisisprevention.com/Blog/October-2016/7-Tips-for-Empathic-Listening

Once you have built a rapport with someone, don’t be afraid to then introduce your business. People will remember you if you have made an impact so keep in touch, you don’t know who they may know.

The most important action after these events is the follow-up so do not forget to e-mail and connect on social media.

 …and SMILE!

You’re out of the office.

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