Having set up my own event I should know a bit
Networking is one of the most apt words in the dictionary; building a net that will work for you!
For most of us though, it’s a word that has associated dread. My heart certainly used to sink at the prospect of having my ears chewed off by Bob, the photocopier salesman with bad breath, discussing the intricacies of a potato chipping factory or, running out of things to say with a real prospect.
Over the years I’ve certainly learnt a bit about networking and now see it as a daily action to be worked at online and corporeally in the once dreaded networking arena. Here are a few of my essential do’s and don’ts.
DO use social media. A free and brilliant tool in maintaining and supporting a network. By providing regular and interesting content you can start to become a key part of other people’s networks and emerge as a ‘go to’ person within the field you specialise in. Make sure you use as many relevant platforms as you can and prioritise video which is shown regularly as the best medium.
DON’T sell yourself. Nobody is keen on a direct pitch. Indeed, it’s called ‘hard selling’ for a reason. Networking is counter-intuitive. By flipping things 180 and offering help or asking questions you will become trusted and sales will come to you thus leading to the much more comfortable ‘soft selling’.
DO use Lara Morgan’s ‘rule of three’. When at a networking event, you can often find yourself alone and nervous about getting a conversation started. If you look for three’s, there will be one person on the periphery of a conversation. You can always approach them safe in the knowledge they will chat with you.
DON’T be unprepared. My Mate Owen Richards from Air Marketing always suggest having engaging questions to ask beyond the typical ‘what do you do?’ or ‘how are you?’. Show real interest with better queries like, ‘what’s your biggest challenge right now?’ or ‘what’s the most exciting thing you’ve done this year?’ Good questions create good conversations and they lead to better relationships!
DO follow up. A network is only good if its maintained. Important contacts need personal attention so pick up the phone and chat, get out to events or make sure you are easy to socialise with. Looser connections can be maintained via your social media accounts with decent, relevant content once or twice a week.
DON’T be impatient. Another good friend, John Harvey of the Samphire Club, preaches the long game of networking. A good network takes time to build and even longer to really start working for you. Have faith in your process and the results will come.
DO have an escape plan. Nobody likes to get stuck in the corner and sadly Patrick Swayze isn’t about to help you! You can be blunt and just say ‘excuse me’ but, to save blushes all round, have a few escape tactics up your sleeve. Never fully fill your glass (the top up escape), research attendees (I must see XX escape) or blame the bladder (I’m off to the toilet escape) are the basics every networker needs.
I do hope you’ve picked up a few pointers and if you’d like to try them out in a relaxed setting, check out our Notworking events on social media