What does ‘networking’ really mean and how to do it with grace and ease.
Networking is a word that can instill dread into a lot of people, as it can seem very ‘forced’ and contrived. The thought of having to put your head above the parapet can be a step too far for some. However, whether you work for a company or run your own business, networking has become an expected part of the working world now.
Here are some tips to make it easier.
Tip 1 – Take the spotlight off yourself and put it on everyone else
What do I mean by this? Well, most people going into a networking situation will be completely ‘self’ focused, thinking – “I don’t know anyone and won’t know what to say”. So instead of having that head tape playing, try changing it to be focused on the people in the room by going in with the head tape – “I wonder who I’ll meet who may benefit from the contacts, experience and expertise I have, and who I’ll be able to help”. This takes the pressure off you and ensures you enter the event with the right energy.
Tip 2 – Build a rapport
Build rapport with people quickly by making a comment that has nothing whatsoever to do with why you are there. For instance, make a complimentary comment about something they are wearing, and this is as appropriate for men and women. I once entered a room full of ‘grey’ and spotted a woman wearing colour, so went up and told her how fabulous she looked. We got talking about India (where she’d just visited and bought the outfit) and eventually got round to business to find we were in similar fields and went on to do some work together.
Tip 3 – Ask questions
Ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, so showing genuine interest in someone and what they do will ensure you are a magnet for people.
Tip 4 – Actively listen
Practice active listening. This means being fully present in the conversation and nowhere else. So, the person you are talking with has your full attention, and you are not looking round or over them to see who else might be interesting to talk to! Very rude!
Tip 5 – Business card etiquette
Never give your business card to someone unless requested to do so. This is very bad networking etiquette. Always ask for someone else’s card, we are very reciprocal and the chances are you will be asked for yours in return.
Finally – enjoy!
If you go into the situation with the right attitude and energy, you will radiate that out to everyone there and people will naturally gravitate towards you. We all like to be around people who are interesting and fun, make sure you are that person.