Whatever ‘Networking’, or its tackier namesake, ‘Working the Room’, means to you, for most of us in business, it is something we do both poorly and inconsistently. As a result, we miss out on the potential for increasing our list of contacts, for getting our own and our firm’s brand out there and ultimately for bringing in more work.
It’s a comfort zone thing for many of us and as a result, we would far rather speak to those we already know at an event than take the opportunity to make new contacts.
Here are ten tips to help you get over the hump and make your networking more productive and more enjoyable:
- Don’t look for work. Aim to meet new people and open a relationship from which work may come in due course.
- Be interested rather than try to be interesting! Trying to be interesting usually translates into you being boring.
- Aim to get the other person talking more than you. In this way, you’ll learn; you run less risk of being boring; and they will have a good time. People like talking about themselves! If they’ve learned more about you than you have about them, you’ve been talking too much!
- If you want to join a group, say so, e.g. “May I join you?”. Don’t just hover indecisively on the edge and hope to be absorbed. It lacks assertiveness and that can be picked up.
- Be careful about going up to talk to a single person. There may be a very good reason why they’re on their own! If you do, you must have an escape plan.
- Ask questions. Open questions starting with ‘How?’, ‘What?’, and ‘Why?’ are the best way of getting the other person talking. You must listen to pick up on the cues which will inform your next question. The other person will sense you’re listening, which shows you’re interested in them.
- Use what they say to link in to telling them something about yourself. In this way, the other person will learn about you and the conversation will not seem too one-sided.
- When asked the question, ‘What do you do?’, don’t just say ‘I’m a lawyer’ etc. Much better to say something like, ‘I’m a lawyer with [firm] in the banking and finance team and I help companies raise money to fund their projects’. You’re saying what you do, who you work for (brand) and the benefit you bring to your clients.
- When you want to escape, look the other person in the eye and be honest! Say you have to see someone else or whatever it is. Don’t lie in order to escape as it may well come back to bite you!
- Follow up within forty eight hours, ideally sending something of interest for the other person. Now that you’ve got yourself on their radar, aim to stay there.
Above all, go with a clear aim of what you want to achieve and you will be much more likely to be successful.