Networking is one of those marmite business tools. Some people love it, some absolutely hate it. Some have got by in business without ever stepping foot in or being present at a networking event. Others swear by it having brought endless new business leads back to the office.
As with so many things in life, with networking, you get back what you put in. You can scratch the surface, turn up, be present – without being particularly involved – and leave again and feel you’ve done your bit. Or you can see networking as an opportunity not only for developing your business but for developing yourself. Your team. Your confidence.
While leading a recent West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce “Networking with Confidence” learning lunch event, I met with delegates who were new to networking alongside seasoned networkers to look at what techniques work and what techniques really don’t.
Most of us felt the core purpose of networking was to find new business. I wanted to challenge that thinking by encouraging everyone to reshape their thoughts and to see networking as an important opportunity for personal and professional development.
Here are my top 10 tips for networking with confidence:
- If you consider networking as a necessary evil, perhaps it’s time to reframe it as an opportunity to bring meaning, purpose, fulfilment and stability to our working lives.
- Before an event, think more about, “What can I give? How can I help?” rather than “What can I take?”
- Be authentic. In an era where social – and traditional – media can create an illusion of success and happiness, we owe it to each other to be truly genuine and create a place of trust where we can be who we really are and nurture each other.
- A more relaxed approach to networking takes the pressure off and creates a more natural route to making meaningful connections. Make it about the other person and the other people in the room and you will start to enjoy the social experience AND make new connections, new business and gain a newperspective.
- Plan an elevator pitch regardless of whether you need to formally make one. It’s a great tool for succinctly summarising your business and experience when you need to.
- Expression and tone of voice are as powerful as what you say – a smile breaks down all barriers, conveys confidence and tells your brain you’re ok.
- Remember you’ve earned the right to talk about your business and about you – enjoy sharing!
- Always follow up with anyone who you’ve enjoyed a conversation with whether through Linkedin, email or meeting up for a one-to-one
- Make networking a strategic part of your personal and business development and plan at least one event per quarter to keep yourself visible
- How we communicate with each other every day, not just on networking days, really matters. Use the skills of listening, empathising and conversing to strengthen relationships both in and out of work.