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The art of networking

12.06.2017

Virgin

Networking may not be everyone’s favourite pastime, but boy can it be effective. You’ve probably heard everyone going on about how important it is to network, and your boss has most likely been hounding you to go to an event. But what’s all the fuss about? Read our straightforward guide to what networking is, the benefit, and how to absolutely nail the art of networking (without annoying everyone in the room).

So, what is this networking thing?

Most people picture networking as standing awkwardly in a business breakfast or lunch meeting, and trying to break the ice with all the strangers in the room. Whilst that’s not inaccurate, networking doesn’t always have to be so, well, salesly and uncomfortable. And who knows, if you approach it with a different mind-set, you might actually enjoy it.

Networking is essentially meeting with like minded individuals who are open to listening to what you have to say. It can take place in a variety of different situations, and can be both formal and information. You could be networking when meeting a potential business contact in cafe, or attending a large business conference.

That age old saying comes to mind, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. And although it’s definitely an overused phrase, it’s particularly true with business networking. Networking can really pay off and result in exciting prospects and opportunities for your business and your career. So if it’s something you’re ready to sink your teeth into, read on…

Why networking should be in your business toolkit

Many individuals and businesses who invest in networking have seen astonishing results. Although some people find it tough, it’s clearly worthwhile in the end. Here are some of the many benefits to networking:

  •       Creates business leads and generate sales
  •       Helps increase brand awareness and raise your profile
  •       Helps build a positive brand reputation
  •       Presents opportunities for your company (e.g. collaborations, partnerships)
  •       You can get useful advice
  •       Learn about industry trends
  •       Helps increase your confidence
How to nail networking

Remember, you don’t have to be a loud, outspoken extrovert to do well at networking. In fact, most people quickly get irritated with those who are overconfident, over the top and in your face.

Try to see networking as an exciting opportunity, rather than spending the whole time wishing you were elsewhere (i.e. on your sofa watching Netflix).

Nailing networking is actually pretty easy once you know the rules and have some tricks up your sleeve. These tips should help you go from a wallflower to a networking superhero.

Differentiate yourself

When you’re at a networking event, you want to stand out, but for the right reasons. You can do this in a number of ways, but it can be as simple as wearing a bright top or pair of shoes, or moving away from the traditional pitch style format and leading with an interesting bit of information that catches people’s attention.

Listen

Of all the networking tips you will read, this is the most important. If you do one thing at a networking event, listen. Because listening helps you to learn nuggets of information that help you to connect with people. Plus, let’s face it, no one enjoys being talked at for ages, but we all respond well to someone who listens to what we have to say.

Set yourself goals and do your research

Before you go, write a plan of what you want to take away from the networking event. Try and arm yourself with information about people who are attending and prepare what you want to say in advance, as this takes some of the pressure off.

Build trust - don’t go in for the hard sell

Everyone hates that serial networker who dives in with the hard sell. It’s cringe worthy and overbearing. Your goal should be to get to know people and build trust, not make sales straight away. After the event, follow up with all the people you spoke to and start to build a relationship with them.

Focus on how you can help others

Yup, you heard us. Avoid trying to get things from other people at networking events, at least initially. Be patient. Networking is all about give and take. Find ways to help out other attendees in some way, such as sharing helpful information or hooking them up with a useful contact. Later on down the line, they will remember your kind gesture and hopefully return the favour.

Aim for quality over quantity

Trying to work the room and speak to every single person at a networking event is exhausting, and it might not pay off as you’d hoped. Why? Because the best networkers only hone in on the most relevant, valuable people in the room, and also people they make an instant connection with. There’s little benefit from getting the contact details of 20 people who won’t buy your product or be interested in your service.

Be yourself

Don’t feel like you have to be anything other than yourself. The best networkers are 100% themselves and comfortable in their own skin. People will catch on straight away if you are putting on an act and struggle to trust you.