What Is Networking
Building relationships, getting known, making friends, growing your business
DEVELOPING YOUR NETWORKING SKILLS?
A definition of networking might be:
“Interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.”
No matter what you do, what your business is, or your type of work, there is no doubt that knowing the right people can pay off. Networking is a vital part of modern business and it is nowhere near as hard as you think, and can really be fun too!
Networking is about building a relationship and rapport with others. Whilst you may gain some quick wins, networking generally forms part of a longer term business strategy. Building trust and enabling you to judge people’s expertise and professionalism (and they yours) over time. When networking is done well it can lead to great exposure to others, new clients and business referrals – and generally more opportunities.
Write things down. Saving people’s details is a key part of networking efficiently. Taking people’s business cards is fine, but unless you are able to link that card to a face or business somehow, you will just end up with a wedge of cards! Take notes that remind you who people are so that you can remember who you want to reconnect or follow up with.
Attend meetings. Go to events, connect with as many as possible and leave a good impression – get your name and face out there.
Introduce yourself to people. It can feel daunting to walk up to people you don’t know and introduce yourself, networking doesn’t come easily for everyone. However, everyone is there for the same thing, so think about your approach and remember this is the way to make contacts! Remember it’s just a conversation with a like minded person!
Make your presence known. As well as attending events, comment on the Community on social media, add articles, add comments about industry developments, comment on other people’s posts – make yourself a key part of the community
Keep in touch. Follow up with connections that you make and interact from time to time – this ensures that you will be front of mind should a referral opportunity come up. A quick email or message could pay dividends down the line.
Bring business cards / leaflets so that people can take your details away.
Prepare. At most networking events there is an opportunity to deliver an “elevator pitch” or 60 second introduction to your business – Do prepare what you are going to say, so that it doesn’t just come out as a waffly blurb! Structure it in a sensible way so that people can clearly understand who you are, what your business is, and remember your name!
Expect too much too soon. Networking is about building relationships not pitching business at people! Take time to build relationships, be professional, helpful and willing to give to build your reputation.
Talk too much. Remember to listen as well as speaking – focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
Take too much of someone’s time. Networking generally needs to be relatively fast moving – no one wants to get stuck in a conversation for too long. Keep it short and to the point, being friendly and focussed in your approach.
Be afraid to ask for help. Networking crowds are generally like-minded and very happy to help each other out.
Other networking don’ts: Forget to say thank you, leave it too long to follow up, make things up, shout loudly at people and hope for the best.