Want to network like some of the greats?
Well here is your ULTIMATE NETWORKING GUIDE to building relationships and creating opportunities.
Understanding the Power of Networking
When you think of the term ‘networking’ you may visualise a group of corporate employees hanging around a hotel room asking the usual question “So what do you do for a living?” and you would probably be right.
What you need to ask yourself …. Is this actually the most effective way to build your network? Is this the best platform to showcase your charisma? Build strong relationships with clients or business partners? The answer is probably not!
Networking can happen anywhere, it happens in the pub, on the golf course, at the tennis club, on vacation, at the coffee shop, and even in a queue waiting for a bus! Networking can unlock some incredible benefits such as:
- Accessing opportunities to gain new clients and develop business relationships
- Gathering information on the latest trends in your space or specialist knowledge in areas you are looking to develop.
- Building a support network
Networking can have both professional and personal growth. Here is a quick quote that spoke to me:
“Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.”
Developing a Networking Mind-Set
To become a successful networker then firstly you need to adopt the correct mind-set which is going to enable you up to become the most effective networker you can be. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when you will just not be in the mood or may be feeling anxious, however, great connections do not walk through your living room door when you’re watching Netflix.
Here are a few essential mind-sets to adopt:
- Embracing Curiosity – So you encounter someone you think is interesting and are curious about them. Ask yourself, what is the journey to their story and what were the pivotal moments that got them to arrive at this position in front of you?
- Giving Mind-set – It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of what can YOU get from the interaction, and what can they do for YOU. Don’t be fooled, people can see this a mile off, and it’s very easy to spot. You have shift your mind-set and attitude, from what can they do for me into how can I help them.
It will become clear how these relationships can be mutually beneficial. Although, at first it may not be obvious at the beginning, sometimes it may take years before you can acknowledge how you can utilise a relationship with someone into a two way street. When networking you are metaphorically planting seeds and watering them to flourish into something beautiful.
Building a Networking Strategy
If you decide to prioritize networking, then first things first, you need to develop a strong strategy so that you set yourself up for the best chance of success. Here is a framework that will help guide you:
- Set clear and achievable goals
- Identify target individuals or groups
- Leverage various social media & events
- Create a follow-up plan
I believe identifying the ‘type’ of person you are looking for is the most important because then you can get an insight into the persona for example, are they a CEO who hangs out in Monaco? Are they bodybuilding salesmen? Are they Starbucks-drinking executives? By taking time to really think and understand these elements will be key for successful networking.
Mastering the Art of Small Talk
While you may HATE the idea of it, there is no getting away from the fact that small talk is vital when it comes to networking. It is the first ritual 😂 and serves as the warm up for bigger more meaningful conversations.
It is a necessary evil when it comes to building rapport with someone or initiating a conversation there is no way around it. Here are a few key things to consider when it comes to small talk
- Active Listening – When the other person is speaking you are building up your arsenal of information about them so LISTEN. They may even drop a nugget of info which you would otherwise miss.
- Open-Ended Questions – By asking questions that start with Why, How or What you are inviting the other person to give a response which is more than Yes or No. Questions like “How did you end up working in Tech?” asks for a story, rather than “Do you work in tech?”
- Finding Common Ground – Just because you both like football doesn’t necessarily mean you have rapport. Rapport happens when you share the same emotions about something and have a deep-meaningful conversation with that emotion.
Creating an Authentic Personal Brand
As you may have gathered from ‘The Ultimate Guide to Charisma’, conducting yourself in an authentic and genuine way is the foundation of everything. There are a handful of strategies you can use
- Be ‘Known’ for something – Have you ever been introduced to someone and they have said “Oh meet Mike, he’s the movie guy!” or “Here is Sara she’s the YouTuber girl!” When people introduce you, ask yourself how do you want to be introduced and what do you want to be remembers for.
- Storytelling – Can you tell a story about your journey or situation. Think of your life like a movie, who are the characters, what is the plot?, is the main character fighting a crisis or will there be a happy ending? Think about what you want your story to be and craft it to share at events. It could be what made you peruse a particular career or why you are starting a new business.
- Showcasing expertise – When opportunities present themseves to share information, support others or add value then take it! You may not be an expert at the moment however you can still help people in other ways. if for example your background is in IT but you are wanting to learn about animals add value by supporting a zoo with their IT.
Effective Communication in Networking
At the heart of all networking is communicating effectively, it’s not sexy, but imperative when it comes to creating opportunities for yourself.
Here is how you can apply your communication skills in a networking environment:
- Elevator Pitch – Can you summarise what you do in a 20s pitch? If not then really boil down what you, your business or your passion is all about.
- Impactful Introductions – You want to make an immediate good impression that will stay with the other person long after you have gone. Techniques such as dressing appropriately and using hand gestures will enhance a great first impression, however, you also want to introduce yourself in a way that conveys confidence and XXX
- Active Listening – Don’t just listen and nod, actively be looking to pick up on subtle clues people give you.
- Building Rapport – Look for common ground and build a foundational relationship.
Building and Nurturing Relationships
Networking is about building genuine relationships. It is unlikely that you are going to get that million-dollar deal from one interaction. Some relationships can take YEARS to develop into fruitful connections. Therefore to build long-lasting relationships try to apply the following techniques:
- Follow-up – having regular communication with someone keeps you in their mind. It’s also crucial as in people’s busy lives we are easy to forget so following up keeps the spark in the relationship – out of sight out of mind!
- Finding Where you can Help – You will have to actively seek where you can offer support and help to this person, a lot of networking is giving with no expectation of getting something in return. Having a “What is in it for me?” attitude is a sure fire way to ensure no opportunities come your way.
- Regular Communication – This can take the form of emails, text messages, video calls, coffee meetings, dinner catch-ups, going to watch the game, and playing squash together. A relationship is not formed overnight but incrementally, with small steps over time.
Networking Etiquette and Professionalism
Networking does have certain etiquette and professionalism required, and while everyone has their own ‘style’, with networking there are some best practices to consider. For example:
- Always conduct yourself professionally and in an authentic way and not like a sleazy salesman.
- When you receive someone’s email or mobile number do not bagger them with constant offers, new products, or advice.
- It may go without saying but do not pass out someone’s contact details without their permission
- If you are going to introduce someone to your network do your due diligence that they are credible and conduct themselves in the same manner as you, because if they don’t it can reflect badly on you.
Ultimately you want to present and conduct yourself in a professional and genuine way anything that compromises these values you should avoid.
Turning Networking into Opportunities
The ultimate goal of networking is to create opportunities. It can be to gain new clients, develop business relationships, create partnerships, find collaborators or mentors, and to find that next step on the career ladder. Some guidance to help you seize these opportunities are below:
- Does this person relate directly or indirectly to your passion, business or future?
- Can you see yourself spending a lot of time with this person?
- Is there an opportunity for you to help or support them first?
- Is this person feeling a connection to you?
- Stay alert and open-minded relationships can come from anywhere!
- Be flexible and relationships can come and go
- Create a value proposition for the other person
- Offer to exchange email, phone numbers or social media profiles
- Create a follow-up strategy
- Make the first move by asking them to meet up of
Understanding the power of networking is not confined to formal corporate events; it extends to various settings, such as social gatherings, clubs, and everyday encounters. By embracing curiosity and adopting a giving mind-set, one can build meaningful relationships with potential clients, business partners, and mentors. Developing a networking strategy, mastering the art of small talk, and creating an authentic personal brand are essential steps in becoming a successful networker.
Effective communication skills and building rapport are at the core of networking, while nurturing relationships and consistent follow-up are vital for long-term connections. Maintaining professionalism and adhering to networking etiquette are crucial to ensure that interactions remain respectful and productive.
The ultimate goal of networking is to transform connections into valuable opportunities. Identifying opportunities through genuine connections and seizing them by offering value and establishing clear follow-up plans can lead to business growth, career advancement, and personal development. By staying alert, flexible, and open-minded, networking can unlock a world of possibilities and pave the way for success for years to come. Remember, networking is not just a one-time activity; it is an investment in your future with lasting benefits.