The top ten tips to improve your networking
Most people hate the idea of networking and those that think they are good at it, often aren’t. Genuine and effective networking can be learnt and isn’t hard. Just follow these tips to get the most from the next networking function you attend.
- Seek out people you don’t’ know - at networking events find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself to them, avoid the temptation to stick with friends.
- The two ears, one mouth rule – listen twice as much as you talk. People love talking about themselves and their business, and you’ll be surprised at how much you learn if you show a genuine interest in those you meet. Your goal should be to establish a relationship, not to make a sale
- Lost for words – try ‘Hello, we haven’t met, I’m Rob McGregor and I’m in public relations’ all the while making eye contact. They’ll respond in kind and then you can follow up asking ‘what brings you here tonight?’ or ‘how is your business travelling at the moment?’ etc. Then ask them another question about what they’ve just told you. This shows that you are not only paying attention but that you are also interested in what they are saying.
- Shy – seek out people that are standing by themselves or who don’t appear to know anyone at the function. They’ll be happy to have someone join them and will often open up and share valuable information and insights.
- Introduce people – introduce each new person you meet to someone you know at the function. Better still, ask them whether there is anyone at the function that they’d particularly like to meet. Inevitably, this makes you more memorable and is repaid in kind.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover – we all have preconceptions about the people who are best able to assist us meet our objectives and it is easy to dismiss people who don’t fit the mould. However, engaging with someone different often can be more interesting and lead to more opportunities than someone you feel more comfortable with. Remember, the success of networking relies on meeting people you don’t already know.
- Quality not quantity – avoid the ‘collecting business cards syndrome’.Networking events aren’t about how many people you get to meet or business cards you collect, better to focus on meeting a few new people and making a quality connection with them.
- Offer to help before asking for business – demonstrate your value by using your expertise and understanding of their business (from the questions you have asked) to provide some free advice and solutions. If they are then interested in what you say and value it, suggest catching up for a coffee to explore it further.
- Follow up – one way of building upon an initial meeting is to send your new connection an article that you think they’d be interested in. This conveys your interest in them, your willingness to help and means they at much less likely to forget meeting you.
- Make networking a habit – try to connect with one new person every day, use LinkedIn and join a business networking group. The more you practice networking the more it becomes second nature.