How to make networking easier: guide for beginners
Everyone has heard about the benefits of networking. However, only some are ready to engage in it. People wouldn`t know how to do it or feel shy bringing themselves to rub shoulders. There will always be more important things to do at work or home, which we would do rather than attend a meeting with complete strangers to exchange business cards.
So, on the one hand, we are sure that networking is helpful, but on the other hand, we can`t or don`t want to allocate time for it. This is because it is difficult for many people, even some extroverts, to start a conversation with new people, especially when they don`t know anyone.
Preparation Is The Key
Public speaker, entrepreneur, and self-help books author Monroe Mann once said:
True networking does not mean meeting people; it means becoming the type of person other people want to meet.
It indicates that effective networking requires a substantial amount of preparation and practice. Successfully socialising in business circles requires being methodical and focused and bringing your skillset to all your interactions. But how to do this?
Prepare yourself for what to expect during the networking:
#1. Different Types Of Events
Before organising an event or becoming a participant or a speaker, it is important to understand its essence and establish for yourself why it is necessary for you to do so. Set clearly what you want to achieve:
- Are you hoping to understand more about a business, or need to learn some specific information (other companies` experience, answers to some questions)?
- Do you want to attract customers or make your company's professional brand more recognisable?
- Is it just an excuse to improve your presentation skills or a chance to find a future employer?
You will be guided by this when choosing the type of event you intend to organise or participate in, the course of your speech, the circle of people with whom you need to establish contacts, etc.
#2. Conversation Topics
Many people break into a cold sweat when they must go to an event and talk to strangers about topics they have not prepared in advance. Even if their profession involves working with people and sometimes requires improvisation.
What do you need to overcome this fear? Think in advance about what topics you would be comfortable discussing. Prepare your intro to those topics. Get out of your comfort zone and use your charm.
It is easier to start a conversation when you already have an acquaintance or colleague attending this event. This is how you know your opinion will be picked up, refuted, or supplemented — it is easier to start a discussion and attract more interlocutors.
#3. Someone Will Not Want To Talk To You
Accept this fact. It would be unfair to say that everyone will immediately be happy to start a conversation with you, share secrets, and exchange contacts. At the same time, many will approach you in search of an interesting interlocutor.
Let's face it. It was easier to make friends in childhood — you could share toys, start a conversation with a banal or silly phrase, and everything somehow came together naturally.
At a more mature age, we choose friends or acquaintances more consciously. Therefore, the fact that someone does not share your opinion or would rather talk to an experienced lawyer than a law student should be kept in mind.
#4. Informal Activities Could Be A Practice
Someone can socialise easily, thanks to their communication skills, natural charisma or other personal qualities. And for someone, it is a difficult task that requires practice to perform successfully.
Informal events that are attended by your desired audience but with a more light and casual atmosphere are a perfect start. Such occasions are an excellent chance to learn to 'read' people. You can observe how others start conversations and establish contacts, find out who is interested in what, what is currently trending, etc.
Our advice is to make the most of these events as they are great places to improve your 'networking' skills and gain confidence in a relaxed environment.
#5. Tiring Is Expected
If you do everything right, you will feel tired. Networking is also work, just different from what you're used to doing every day.
Your job during networking is about:
- establishing partnerships or friendly relations
- work on the image of the company and the development of a personal brand
- this continuous movement around the hall in search of new interesting acquaintances
- the focus on the conversation and the desire to present one's opinion correctly
- constant tension and the hum of human voices
However, it is also a source of many exciting stories, invaluable experience, and practice of communication skills. It is a trend and necessity, a combination of valuable and pleasant.
Is There Any Action Plan?
A global survey revealed that interest in networking doesn`t correspond with actual networking time:
- 79% of professionals think networking is essential to their career success
- 100% admitted they keep in touch with their network when everything is going well in their career
- 41% want to network more frequently
After observing these numbers, networking looks like a challenging thing to do. But we prepared some general tips that might make your life easier.
#1. Do your homework
Keith Ferrazzi, the author of the book “Never Eat Alone,” says he is preparing to meet a new person in advance. He googles, looks at social media profiles, and communicates with people from the person`s environment.
Knowing about a person`s needs and interests, you can not only introduce yourself to them but also impress them.
#2. Familiarise yourself with the topic of networking and the list of participants in advance
Interesting events bring together participants who share common principles and are interested in the same topic or presentation of a particular speaker. Moreover, if you are an expert on this topic or at least have your own opinion about it, the benefit of participating in the event will be incomparably more significant.
#3. Networking is not just an event to collect business cards but the beginning of long-term relationships
Listen more than you talk. This will give you an opportunity to get an answer on whether you can be handy for the hobbies or projects of your new acquaintance. The purpose of networking is to learn about people rather than use them for their own purposes.
An entrepreneur and author of Amazon bestsellers, Timothy M. Houston wrote in his book:
You need to position yourself to your referral sources and your current clients as providing exceptional value and experiences in everything you do.
#4. Define a period when you should refrain from contacting a new acquaintance with business proposals
As a rule, it is 6 months. During this time, you will be able to get to know the person better. Of course, if you became close friends with them very quickly, or they turned to you with an offer, then in this case, nothing should hold you back.
#5. Work on the facts about you that may interest a new acquaintance
List your virtues and regalia. No need to mention the whole list of your achievements. As a rule, interlocutors will value you for real things rather than past successes.
To demonstrate professionalism, it is better to speak about a real business case. It is enough to talk about solving the problem for a specific Client in a few words. And then, only if there is a discussion related to it.
#6. Consider creating a plan to achieve short-term and long-term goals
Each part of the plan will require getting to know new people from the industry. Compile a list of market players who might be helpful to you. And start meeting them.
This strategy helped Ferrazzi during his work as CEO of YaYa. The company became recognisable on the market, and it was sold for good money.
#7. Keep in touch with new acquaintances
It is essential to remember that meeting someone during the event is only the first step — you must ensure that they will remember you after.
You can add them on social networks and occasionally remind them about yourself: congratulate them on their birthday, send links to interesting articles, etc. Such gestures show that you care about the person and are interested in their life.
#8. It is essential to be attentive to your online presence
Some employers or potential business partners check your social media sites as part of the screening process.
Do a Google search on your name to see what people can find about you and adjust your privacy settings accordingly. Clean up your social media accounts by removing questionable material. Present a positive online image.
Some tips from Keith Ferrazzi:
- Only write a post if you have something to say.
- Your information should be helpful to the reader.
- State the main idea in the beginning.
- Share what impressed you and explain why.
- Be bold and talk about your failures.
#9. And remember that networking will not bring immediate results
Refrain from expecting that during the event, you will be able to solve a business issue. This is possible only if the other party knows about your plans and is ready to participate.
Now you have some tools on how to do networking so that you can enjoy meeting new people. But remember an important rule — you should never stop when you start.
Your network should constantly evolve — you never know when you may need to call upon your networking contacts.
An entrepreneur with strong network makes money even when he is asleep.