How To: Networking
by Gerard Young
Networking is becoming a key differentiator in a world where it is not what you know or even who you know but who knows you. In this world of connected clusters of creative people, one simply can’t go it alone. You have to network your way to success. Opportunities don’t float around on clouds, they are attached to people.
Having said that, arriving to a networking event having not met anyone before can be quite a daunting task. No matter how confident you may be in yourself and your company approaching an unfamiliar person or group is certainly not an easy endeavour.
Fortunately for you, being the type of organisation IIBN is, we have picked up a few pointers over the years to help you convert this perceived burden into something powerful.
You might find that upon arriving that everyone is already fully engaged in conversations. You don’t want to be rude and butt into an ongoing conversation but at the same time you want to get involved – this can be tricky. The best thing to do here is try to get the gist of what the conversation topic is and when the time is right ask a question relating to it. Usually people will be totally receptive and will be more than happy to answer your question. Sure enough this will engage you into the conversation and furthermore lead to introductions.
This will help tremendously when trying to immerse yourself into the environment. You will find people to be a lot more welcoming and often will engage with you before you even get to ask a question. A broad smile and a warm “hello” can be the most advantageous attributes at your disposal at a networking event. Think about it – No one’s going to want to talk to the person walking around with a humourless scowl on their face…
The ability to listen and listen well is greatly overlooked. People love to talk about themselves and their businesses. If you are capable of listening to what the person is saying it will allow for a more engaging and sincere conversation. Being able to relay small details of what the other person has spoken about will signal to them that you are tuned in and thus help build a trusting relationship. There’s nothing worse than you asking someone a question about something they have already covered in the conversation.
Be willing to give back.
People have perception that they can rock up to an event and gain contacts, leads and opportunities by just being there. It is vitally important to look to help out where you can. Success will come much more fluidly to those that put themselves out there looking to lend a helping hand than to those who only look to gain selfishly. Paying it forward will help help build better and stronger connections. If everyone has this mentality everyone wins!
Have business cards to hand.
Some people seem to think it okay to disregard this point thinking that business cards are no longer relevant in this digital age – These people are wrong. Always have a handful of cards with you for events, give them to everyone you speak to and look for one off them, it will leave a more solid indent of you in their mind than without one.
It is thought that in networking scenarios being an extrovert is beneficial, however this is not the case. Sure, having confidence is an important factor when it comes to networking success but being yourself is just as important. This makes you as comfortable as possible and it will make others around you ‘feed off’ that energy. If you’re not naturally outgoing trying using the tips above to thrive at the next event you are at.
At IIBN we always welcome feedback. If you have any advise for us or if you get a chance to put these pointers to use be sure to let us know how you get on!