The Importance of Networking
The importance of building and retaining networks is crucial to business success as we move from the information age to the age of connectedness. We need to consciously build our own networks rather than waiting to build them when we think we need them.
Research shows that people who have diverse networks live longer, are stronger mentally and physically and are generally happier.
The key to networking successfully is to implement a number of suggested attitude and changes to our behavior. Networking, like any skill is an important part of business and the higher you climb in your career, the more your success depends on your ability to communicate effectively.
The skills that you needed to get your job become less important and interestingly, relationships become more important.
Networking can help us first and foremost to connect socially with like-minded people in our industry, generate new business leads and it can also serve as a platform to learn and even consolidate ideas that are relevant to your industry.
Business Networking Tips:
- Practice purposeful networking.
Set personal targets per event. Try to find out who is attending and don’t leave until you have met who you want to meet. The clearer you are on why you are going, the more chance you will have of achieving your objective.
- Ask questions before giving opinions. Many of us spend the time when people are speaking to us preparing what we would like to say next. Don’t. It is much better to listen first and talk later.
- Take plenty of business cards to events. A business card that clearly states your name, what you do and your contact details including website is imperative for effective networking. Always treat people’s business cards with respect.
Try and give out a number of your cards while also taking other people’s business cards at a networking function. When introducing yourself give the person your card and say, for example: “Hi, I’m Heidi Buchanan and I run a communications company.” That’s about as much as you should say about yourself unless they ask.
- Have quality conversations. Try and have quality conversations rather than quantity. If there are fifty people at the event, don’t expect to speak to all fifty. Be content with a quality conversation with around five to seven people, who the next day will look at your card and remember you and what you spoke about. And more importantly will remember you the next time they see you.
In fact, people will often forget what you said and what you did before they forget how you made them feel. Networking is an emotional business.
The best networkers are the best listeners. Anyone will speak to you for ten minutes if you are not simply speaking about yourself.
- Take along a few icebreakers. If you are a little nervous about what to talk about, read online to see what is making news or listen to talk back radio on the way to your event so you have a couple of interesting current topics to talk about. The first 60 seconds of any conversation with a complete stranger is the hardest. If you have a question prepared (for example what was the highlight of your day or weekend) the conversation is sure to flow.
- Don’t fear pregnant pauses. If there is a pause in the conversation, that’s okay. Don’t feel that you have to jump in and fill the gaps with trivia or meaningless chatter. In fact, focus on being interested rather than interesting. Show that you are interested by asking probing questions and listening to the answers.
- Be a giver, not a taker. Give to the individual, get back from the network. Every time you meet somebody think about what you can do for them, rather than what they can do for you.
- Avoid always talking about work while networking. Eighty per cent of the population don’t get recognition on the job and don’t want to speak about their job at all. Most people become very animated when they speak about their interests outside work. Often, by revealing a little about yourself, people will feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.
- Always make eye contact. Always make eye contact when you are speaking to someone. Sounds simple yet it is so often forgotten. Looking over their shoulder for someone better to speak to is not inly insulting but very foolish. You never know who knows the person you are speaking to.
- Act like the host. When you are at events, act like the host and introduce people. Make an effort. It is easy to do nothing. Become a connector at events – think about who might be interested in whom and connect them.
- Be optimistic and use positive vocabulary – people like spending time with optimists. Seek out positive, optimistic people. It will rub off on you. You are the average of the people you hang around with. Pessimists suck the life out of people and events.
- Finally – have fun. Great networkers have a great time. They know that by having quality conversations with the people they meet and keeping in touch, following up, doing the things they say will do, they will build trust. The by-product of trust is – it constantly builds a strong and effective network.