Networking is making contacts and giving people the chance to help you in a way that’s mutually beneficial. For your business or idea, networking will help you:
• Expand your contacts
• Broaden your outlook by expose your to a wider range of ideas and information
• Help you find staff or board members: around half of all vacancies are filled through different forms of networking.
Your network is already wider than you think. You do not have to know the ‘right people’, but by meeting one new person you add several new layers to your network. Remember the adage about six degrees of separation: your new acquaintance may know the ‘right’ person.
• Try to attend an event once a month
• Make at least two new contacts per month
• Do not go to events with friends: you need to meet new people.
Those who network do so because they want to be there, they want new business, they want to meet new contacts and they understand the initial pressures of joining a group. With this in mind you should approach one of the key organizers and get them to introduce you to possible sources of business.
Recognising the networking types
• The Newbie Stands alone, smiles inanely, go to the toilet, the bar, the buffet table: anything to avoid talking to someone. The newbie does want to be here and if you are a fellow nervous newbie, is a good person to start talking to.
• The Amateur Takes unhealthy interest in your business, has a crazy business vision of their own, is unshakeable. Seeks you out at every meeting.
• The Pro Has been networking forever and knows how to milk their contacts and friends.
• The Networker Usually has a successful business, and enjoys being at networking events for the buzz and of course, the opportunities. This person will look after the newbie; introductions will follow and will also offer a bit of mentoring (as they probably do all day long in their own business).
• Get a list of names of who’s going to be at the event so you can target the people you want to meet
• Do your homework before the event so you have opinions about what is being discussed
• Get people’s names right
• Exchange business cards
• Come armed with a few stock questions
• Keep abreast of the news and have opinions ready
• Don’t get drunk
• If the person you would like to talk to is in the middle of a group, start on the outskirts and work your way in
• Aim to interest people in who you are and what you can do rather than blatantly trying to sell yourself.
• Reciprocity is essential. This is a give-and-take situation.
• Never make promises you cannot keep: it’s easy to try and please in this environment.
• Links may become broken or obsolete. Check them regularly and repair or renew areas that need attention.
• Get people’s names right
• Follow up meetings with a letter of thanks.
10 Essential Tip for Business Networking
1. Elevator speech. Describe yourself concisely and impressively.
2. Be different. Differentiate yourself. Aim high. Be best at something.
3. Help others. Help others and you will be helped.
4. Personal integrity. Integrity, trust and reputation are vital for networking.
5. Relevant targeting. Groups and contacts relevant to your aims and capabilities.
6. Plans and aims. Plan your networking – and know what you want.
7. Follow up. Following up meetings and referrals makes things happen.
8. Be positive. Be a positive influence on everyone and everything.
9. Sustained focused effort. Be focused – and ever-ready.
10. Life balance. Being balanced and grounded builds assurance.