Top Networking Tips
Like it or not, we network all the time. From the moment we stepped over the school ground threshold we started building relationships. We continue to do so through college, university, work, the church, the pub, the golf club. Nowadays we can do it through online social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Suddenly networking is trendy again. Let’s face it we even network our computers now, as they are more effective working together than they are working alone!!
Most successful business people have not made it all by themselves either. They have nurtured a network of contacts throughout their careers. Those that belong to their networks are those they know, respect and trust. Look at how Alan Sugar pulls on people in his network to help him make the Apprentice decisions.
There are all kinds of real time network opportunities, especially in Dorset. It is said that Bournemouth is the networking Mecca of the UK. There are more meetings per square foot here, than anywhere else in the country! This is great but at some point one does have to do some work – so how do you choose which meetings, events, and clubs to attend?
All have plus and minus points and what is going to work for some, will not work for others. It is important to try out a few to get a feel for the ambiance and the potential focus before choosing the right ones for you. Have a plan, decide what you want to achieve from networking.
When you go to an event, meeting or club go with the intention of learning something, building your self confidence, meeting potential suppliers, further developing a relationship, building your brand awareness, and/or information gathering. That way the return on your time invested is not solely reliant on the contacts that you have met.
Choose events, clubs or meetings where you will get something out of the meeting other than direct contacts. For example there may be a presentation on a subject that you would like to know more about, there may be opportunities for government lobbying. Use the event to learn from your peers how they are tacking the problems in your industry.
Choose events, clubs or meetings based on the social element or interest factor. These are your ‘old boys network’ type clubs. Don’t get me wrong they are perfectly brilliant at keeping members in touch with one another. Other such networks include those with a specific focus – for example I have just joined a writers club where we meet to discuss, encourage and support each other in our writing endeavours.
Choose events, clubs or meetings based on the appropriate level of contacts. There are lots of commercial networks that focus on lead generation, the BNI is probably the most famous.
The crux of networking is the ability to form relationships. If you haven’t already read it then Dale Carnegy’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a must. I am also a fan of Andy Lopata and Peter Ropers best seller “and Death Came Third”
Some key top tips are:
1. Ask those that you know already to introduce you to people you would like to get talking to.
2. If you know no one, get the organiser of the event to do the introductions. Don’t try and sell your products or service; no one goes to a meeting to be sold to. So don’t do it!
3. By all means talk about your business but recognise that you are more likely to build a long term relationship when you find out what you have in common. So listen and listen curiously.
4. Great results come from the follow up. Staying in touch after the event is the most important part of the networking process.
So whichever events, clubs or meetings you go; to you need to include in your plan, how to follow up with something of interest with each of the people you meet. This does make SPEED networking particularly hard work due to the volume of contacts but working the room in this instance is an article in its own right.