The majority of people are not natural networkers and many simply lack the confidence to put themselves in a networking environment, so where do you start and how can you get the most out of business networking or even just gain more confidence when attending networking events?
There are many online resources and their is lots of advice available with hints and tips on how to network, you should definitely take the time to read up as much information as possible but remember ultimately at some point you will just need to throw yourself in at the deep end as the best experience will come from getting out there and doing it for real!
I have been attending, supporting, and leading networking events for years now but I don’t believe I was a natural when I started, I just got better at it by ensuring that I was regularly attending as many events as possible and as a result I believe I have done enough networking and have been successful enough to be able to share some of my advice and experience with others.
If my advice helps just one or two people to improve their networking skills or encourages them to get out there and network more then it’s been a success in my view!
Here are my top 10 tips and advice for business networking.
- The cardinal rule – always be genuine, effective business networks work on trust so be yourself.
- Pay it forward – Don’t just think what can others do for me? Think instead what support you can offer to others, your efforts will be rewarded at some point as it will come full circle one day!
- Be clear on what you want to achieve – Why do you want the new contacts? Is it about learning or sharing challenges and issues? Do you just want to stay on top of what’s happening in your market? Is it more about keeping up to speed on regulatory changes etc? It could be all of these or simply that you want to spend time with like minded people who go through the same day to day ups and downs and face the same business challenges as you.
- Network in the right places – Once you know what you want to achieve you can think about which types of networking events you would likely get the most benefit from, do your research!
- Understand that every group of people and event is different – Bear in mind that the dynamics of networking events and groups of people can be drastically different even in the same industries so try out various events until you find the right group of people for you.
- Stay connected after the events – Use your calendar to to set reminder alerts ensuring you keep in touch with the people who you meet where there is mutual value to be gained from the relationship.
- Don’t just wait for the next formal event – Aim to catch up in person with people between events for one on one discussions (coffee, breakfast or lunch always works well).
- Never sell to, or pressure people – There is nothing worse than going to a networking event to be bombarded by someone looking for commitment right there and then for some kind of product or service.
- Be professional – Represent yourself and your business appropriately at all times, its business networking after all and even if the environment at some events may appear quite casual bear in mind that everyone is ultimately there for business purposes.
- Be honest and consistent – If your networking efforts are honorable and regular you will ultimately create an ever expanding circle of trusted professional contacts who become your business referral network as well as your support network (See number 1. The cardinal rule).
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