Ian Briggs gives his top tips on how to overcome your fears, build your contacts and boost your business
Many people hate networking. We’ve likely all experienced those times where we’ve attended (or been forced to attend) an event on our own, didn’t know anyone else in the room and stood there feeling pretty alone, awkward and anxious.
The truth is that in these situations almost everyone else is feeling the same as you. And from personal experience networking can actually be enjoyable, fulfilling and an important way to boost personal confidence and meet like-minded people.
It is also a crucial way to build career success by making connections, improving your skills, keeping up with industry trends and meeting prospective clients and partners.
Here are my top tips for successful networking:
Build genuine personal connections
It might sound counterintuitive, but networking shouldn’t be viewed as a smash and grab sales pitch. People buy people and most of us want to feel that you are genuinely interested in them. Show an interest in the other people, ask questions and understand what they do. Potential opportunities are likely to present themselves this way than through a 30 second, pre-rehearsed sales pitch.
Widen your network
Real value is gained from getting out and meeting wider groups than those you are already familiar with. So, for example, attending events that are outside your particular sector where you’re only likely to meet people you know or are in competition with. I recently attended a regional networking event at a beer festival that was attended by 300 people from a diverse range of sectors and which I made a number of new contacts from.
Sounds an obvious one but it’s an important one. Smiling demonstrates an openness, inspires confidence and makes you stand out from the crowd. Nobody wants to talk to a grump.
When joining a conversation take the time to listen and absorb the information being discussed. Then add to the conversation by making a point to show you were listening rather than trying to steer the conversation to your own agenda immediately. By listening and contributing to wider subjects, people will be more open to listening to you, who you are and what you do.
Research the room
Many networking groups will provide a list of attendees and their organisations prior to the event itself. Study it, work out who you want to speak to and who you have mutual interest with. Then form a plan. Not only will this make the session more worthwhile but also inspire confidence in you if you show the individual you’re introducing yourself to that you recognise them.
Your likely to feel more comfortable and confident if you be yourself and don’t put on a front. Let your personality shine.
Strength in numbers
If you are able to attend an event with someone you know from your own company or even with a friendly client then great – it’s always good to meet people together and your client might even give you and your organisation a big up.
Fingers crossed you came, saw and networked. Your wallet / LinkedIn is now bulging with new contacts. It’s tempting to pat yourself on the back and say job done. But it’s only job half done. Make sure you follow up, say thank you, share any insight or further information you promised such as your services and ask for a follow up meeting.