Monday, 3 November 2014

The art of networking

Is there an art to networking?

I used to get terrified at the thought of networking, having to go to an event on your own and talk to people. How do you start a conversation? How do you pick who you want to speak to? How do you break into a group of people and join in a conversation that has already begun.

I always thought you had to be the most confident person to be able to attend an event on your own and "network."

Practice makes perfect:

There is truth in "practice makes perfect" although for me personally, even now, after attending many events on my own and meeting people, I still get nervous going to events by myself. Especially if they are pure networking events where the sole purpose of the event is to meet people.
I prefer to go to events where I know there will be speeches and talks so that I can network for a bit before, listen to an interesting talk and then network a bit more after.

I find that every networking event I attend, I always meet someone interesting or someone who can help me with my business. A great example of the power of networking was when I attended an event hosted by Pinterest in the UK.

Take a friend

I actually took a friend with me to this event as I knew it would be interesting for her as she is a graphic designer and uses Pinterest regularly for inspiration. We were chatting to each other and then I said that I thought we should go and mingle and try to meet some people. Having a friend with me definitely gave me an extra boost of confidence.

I saw an older man standing on his own, a bit out of his comfort zone as the majority of the people who were attending this event were young female bloggers. I went over to him, introduced myself and I asked what he did, he said that he runs a motoring blog! "How strange" I said, "so do I! But mine is specifically for female drivers."

It then turned out that he used to be a graphic designer but then had a career change, so the topic of conversation was perfect for my friend and I.

Whilst we were deep in conversation, a lady walked over to us and said to the man "I've been told to introduce myself to you because I run a garage." I was so shocked that another lady in the motoring industry was at the event. I was even more shocked when she said that she owns/runs a garage.

The topic of conversation got even more interesting at that point!

Tips for networking: 

  1. Be confident (most people are probably just as shy as you might be, try to be the person to make the first conversational move) 
  2. If you know the name of the person who has organised the event, go up to them and introduce yourself, they can then introduce you to other people. 
  3. Try and find out the name of the person who is organising the event, you will then be able to go and find that person and they can be the first person you speak to at the event. 
  4. Ask great questions, if you show an interest in the people you are talking to, you will build better relationships.
  5. Always ask for their business card, but only at the end of the conversation or when it's appropriate. No-one likes a business card shoved in their face at the beginning of the conversation as it just looks like you want their business rather than to build a relationship. 

Top tip:

Be Yourself! Be genuine and you will build people's trust. 

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