Whether you’re looking to start networking or an experienced networker brushing up on your skills, the How not to be weird when you’re networking edition of our award-winning podcast is a great listen.
As Advita, Jenni and Trudy met each other at a networking event, it seems only natural to share
a roundup of their rebel recommendations.
Before you start, ask yourself some important questions. Is it important that I network? If it is, then who should I network with and where? Externally? Internally within an organisation? Which sector?
Work out where your gaps are and be intentional where you spend your time and what type of networking will help you progress and learn.
Not having a real reason makes it harder. The answers will save you wasting time, energy, heartache and money. If you need to do it, having the intention drives you forward.
If you attack networking with clarity, knowing why you want to meet a specific person or infiltrate a professional group, then you’ll have something sensible to say rather than an embarrassing “um!”
- First, start small. Go with a friend or colleague – but don’t be glued to each other.
- Make sure it’s something that you’re interested in otherwise it will be a painful exercise.
- Come out of your comfort zone to connect with others, especially if you’re located outside the usual centre of activities for your industry. Be prepared to travel.
- Start by targeting a specific industry or trade organisation. On its own this will present many other opportunities to network or attend events further afield.
- Have a goal. Set yourself a list of three things to achieve in that room. E.g., connect with three people in a different organisation to you.
- Link in with them after the event. Sending short, great-to-meet-you notes makes you memorable and makes most people smile.
- Arrive early. There’ll always be someone setting up who is happy to talk.
Online v in-person networking
There’s a big difference.
- If you’re comfortable with in-person networking, it’s OK to feel slightly out of your depth on entering the online networking world as it feels very different.
- It’s easy for dominant people to take over. Online networking requires a strong chair to moderate and bring everyone into the conversation.
- Interrupting online creates overwhelming, overlapping noise whereas it’s easier to decipher when face-to-face.
- In-person there’s always a natural pause where others can interject, or body language comes into play.
- However, if you’re someone who’s daunted by walking into a room full of strangers, being in your own space online might be your saviour: you can choose to stay or leave at any time.
- Share a mini-introduction, what you do and your contact details. One great way to connect post digital meetings is to offer a QR code.
- Have your camera on and be present. Respond with physical cues that show you’re engaged.
- Be methodical and intentional. Make mini appointments with people that you’d like to meet or need to win over in your organisation and find an excuse to talk to them. No one is inaccessible.
- Walk the floor. Go to see people. Talk to them. Make note of what interests them and follow up by sending them a related link.
- Become helpful. Goodwill goes a really long way when building relationships. No one will begrudge you assisting to enrich their knowledge or remembering their interests.
- However, avoid bombarding – effectively spamming – people. This will not win you friends or favours.
- Establish relationships by understanding people’s interests and areas of expertise. Turning to them when you need a reliable source for input and guidance often sees them become an ally or advocate for you. Remember, you need allies to speak well of you when you’re not in the room.
- Be visible. Consider how your personality and presence get you noticed for the contribution(s) that you make.
- To make an impact in a meeting and so that people know who you are, say something within the first ten minutes.
- Say thank you. It’s vastly underestimated as a practice but with a powerful impact when on the receiving end.
Wherever you network
- Be yourself. Be genuine.
- Make it easy for people to get to know you.
- Ooze the three attributes of a credible communicator – goodwill, trustworthiness and expertise.
- How you hold yourself and what you wear make you feel comfortable and confident, which in turn give you the strength and power to walk across a room/turn on a webcam and talk to people.
- Talk about what you do as much as possible: that’s a kind of networking in itself:
- Be happy to talk about what you’re doing and involved in with others in your networking groups, because you never know who’s in the room/space.
- Wherever you are – a family gathering, a stag/hen do, at a supermarket checkout – people will ask what you do: never be shy to tell them. It’s natural for them to make recommendations based on mutual interests or personal connections.
- Listen and pay attention in order to be genuine when reaching out to people. Listen to what they have to say as this gives you fuel for reconnecting later. Listen to ask a good question which leads to a conversation that can go further.
- Be clear about why you’re networking, who you need to reach out to so you can have a meaningful conversation.
It takes time to build relationships through networking. You have to be in it for the long term as it doesn’t happen overnight