1. Remember what we were taught at school – quality, not quantity? Well, it still applies in the world of networking. It’s much better to focus your approach and ensure that you have 4 people willing to lend a helping hand, rather than 400 who know your name. Focus your additional time on those who have demonstrated the ability to help you already.
2. Scout around for existing networks of companies and businesses that you think will help you out on your way to success. This is where social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and especially Linked-In come in handy. You could even start your own network, and have a ready-made audience waiting to welcome you. Social media platforms make it much easier for shy people to get a head start – initially you can hide behind a screen and take steps you may not in real life. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people though, making the first move is often the toughest hurdle to overcome.
3. Your initial aim in networking should always be about helping other people. It takes two to tango. If you can make someone feel like you are of great value to them by identifying their needs, then they will be more willing to help you in return.
4. Organisation is key. Keeping a list of contacts is absolutely essential, whether it be a notepad you take everywhere or simply jotted down on your IPhone. Note down who you’ve spoken to, about what, and their contact number. This will help to jog your memory if you make contact at a later date – and you’ll look like you’re totally on the ball. Set reminder dates to contact people so you know who to contact and when. Set period times to contact i.e. weekly, monthly etc.
5. Extend your focus beyond the industry you primarily work in. This will ultimately end up adding strings to your bow in a big way. Being associated with contacts in different industries means you’ll never know when you could be helpful – or who to. Keeping your contact database wide open ensures you’ll always be thought of as the person to go to.
6. Never expect your favours or interest to be repaid. Making contact with a certain person or company does not immediately make them indebted to you. Some people will respond to you, and others will not. Lessons will be learnt by focussing on those who do, and enquiring with those who don’t if anyone else is available to speak to you.
7. Constantly evaluate. What have you done, who have you seen, and where will you go from here. If and when you receive knock-backs this will make it easier to identify what went wrong, and how to avoid making the same mistake in future. Don’t be afraid to question people as to why they aren’t engaging with you and think about how you could adjust your approach.
8. Cheap, flimsy business cards won’t impress anyone. First impressions are hard to change, especially if someone has hard evidence of you scrimping out on what is basically a business essential. Make sure you have lovely, well-printed cards which make the impression you’re aiming for.
9. Arriving early. Fashionably late isn’t the done thing at networking events. This is especially advisable if you are shy and retiring in situations with a lot of people. By arriving early, you ensure that you can have a good one-to-one chats with other attendees. You also get to make a solid impression before the flurry of other arrivals. You also won’t have to stick out the entire event if you manage to identify and chat with your targets straight away.
10. Make deals with yourself. And don’t forget the rewards. This is a helpful tactic for introverts, for whom socialising doesn’t come easily. If you make a promise to yourself that you’ll speak to at least 15 people before leaving and achieve it, your chocolate pudding reward will taste much sweeter! Alternatively, why not bring out your competitive edge by making a deal with a friend and bring them along? Drinks are on whoever networks the least.
11. Follow up your leads. Never leave it more than 48 hours to make contact with someone who has given you their details. You’ve made your great impression – don’t ruin it now.
12. Flash those pearly whites. Smiling instantly makes you look much more approachable and positive. Sometimes when people are nervous or concentrating they can forget what their facial expressions are saying – don’t be one of them. Smiling is such an underrated factor when approaching people.
13. Put aside those hard feelings towards your competitor’s success. Networking is about encouraging people in a constructive way, and an easy way to achieve this is to make sure you drop in compliments early and often during conversation. Showing yourself to be upbeat and personable and well-informed of your industry is your main aim whilst networking. Overkill should be avoided, of course, but commending other people’s achievements will help you be remembered in a positive light.
14. Establish common ground with people as soon as possible. Maybe you have mutual friends, or enjoy similar sports or music? Doing research before networking events can be a big help with this, as you can also pinpoint the best people to speak with and who you will make a beeline for. This kind of information goes a long way helping to avoid the awkward silences that we all dread, without resorting to commenting on the weather. If you know something about someone in advance, they will be impressed. It shows you have done your homework.
15. Your professional and personal attitudes should not be two separate entities. Ensuring you are true to yourself in all aspects of your life will help to represent your business or company as truly authentic as well. Having to essentially switch personalities between home and the office can prove to be a massive drain on health and energy resources. Being of one mindset across the board is a hugely appealing trait to have, especially for companies that have honesty and authenticity as their core values.