Wednesday 28 August 2019

How to get the best out of networking


5 tips to improve your on and offline networking. 

Networking – whether on or offline – is important (in some businesses it is an essential part of the Business Development lifecycle).

But to many, it is an occupational hazard with breakfast included!

We have been there – going along to a networking event for the first time.  Everyone is chomping their way through an obligatory bacon sandwich and standing in pairs, chatting like old friends to the exclusion of everyone else.  You linger a little too long at the coffee machine hoping that someone will come and speak to you, but when you realise that this is not going to happen, you turn to face the room.  The easy option is to go and stand in a corner.  The brave thing to do is to approach a fellow networker and strike up a conversation.  It is tough.  And believe me, it never seems to get any easier to do

However, if you are serious about growing your business, then networking is a necessary evil.  Follow these 5 essential tips to make the most out of your on and offline networking opportunities;

  1. Choose your event carefully.  Make sure that it is likely to be attended by people who would be interested in your and your services whilst having something to offer in return.  Don’t rule out smaller events with the misconception that no-one will buy what you have to sell (and on that note, a word of caution; nobody goes to a networking event with the intention of buying a product or service – so don’t try an immediate hard sell.  It will only serve to put off the people who you meet and you may notice that they start to avoid you in the future).  Remember also that exchanging a business card is not a guarantee that you will work together – all business relationships take time and effort
  2. Get engaged.  Don’t just be interesting – be interested.  Engage with your network.  Be visible (both on and offline).  Try asking open questions and engage people in conversations.  
  3. Never eat alone.  If your event is during a mealtime, this is an excellent opportunity to meet new people – and the great thing is, you will have something to talk about (food!)  Be prepared with some interesting topics of conversation as there is nothing worse than an awkward silence!
  4. Give and Take (but mainly give).  Relationships are built on trust.  It is unlikely that you will build trust if you immediately go in for a ‘hard sell’ with someone that you have just met or just connected with  – try offering something to your new found connection instead (this could be an introduction to another connection, an offer of a catch up over coffee etc)
  5. Location, Location, Location.  Some of the very best networking opportunities are at events that are not specifically designed for networking.  Take every opportunity to network.  Get outside of your comfort zone (even just a little bit).  Carry your business cards wherever you go and hand them out freely.  Make sure you follow up

No amount of tips are going to take away the nervous feeling that you get when you are heading into the unknown of a networking event for the first time – we are only human after all.  But remember, once you are comfortable at the event, try and reach out to newcomers who may be experiencing those first-timer’s feelings that you once felt!

If you are serious about growing your business but are struggling to make the first steps in developing a business strategy, then give us a call. Connect with us on LinkedIn (or any other social media platform). Come and speak to us at a networking event or drop us a line – all of our contact details are below.