Whether it's connecting with people online, or face-to-face, business networking is a highly important activity. However, I personally know lots of people who would rather remain within the same network of people than expand their horizons. Remaining isolated in today's world can only result in missing out on business opportunities or even referrals. So, in today's blog post, I will remind you why networking is important and give you some tips on how to improve it!
The pros of Networking
1. Opportunities: It is clear and obvious that networking events are there to give you more opportunities to grow your business or client base. If you find yourself saying that you don't think such events are worthwhile, that's probably because you're not making the most of them.
2. Referrals and Friendship: The more people you know, the more opportunities you have. Also, the more people you know WELL, the more likely they are to think of you, before they think of anyone else. If you always stick around the same people at business events, your circle is closed and you'd be right in saying that networking is a waste of time. But make no mistake, there's no one else to blame but yourself.
3. Advice and Inspiration: If for no other reason, networking events can be a great set up for you to learn what other people are doing and maybe get some new ideas. Take it as opportunity to learn and grow. Remember, genuinely asking professionals for advice, doesn't make you look inexperienced. On the contrary, it shows that you are open to grow and develop.
I will now go through the 3 points mentioned above and give you some tips based on these important reasons for networking.
How to Improve your Networking Skills:
1. Opportunities: Speak to everyone! Don't limit yourself to a few names and faces you've listed. Sit close to the bar or a recreational area, smile, forget about your phone and simply try starting a conversation by asking someone if the seat next to them is taken. You may wind up speaking to someone who won't bring any business, but if you truly show interest, you're likely to find an important contact for the future, or better yet, someone you can immediately work with.
2. Referrals and Friendship: Following on from point 1, body language and active listening are key to developing lasting business relationships. Trust me when I tell you that people realise whether you're truly interested, or just faking it. Next time you're speaking to someone, try thinking of questions you want to ask, based on what they're telling you. This will automatically push you to listen more attentively and your body language will adjust accordingly. Also, make sure that if there are evening events, you go to those too. This is the time when everyone winds down and is ready to have a conversation. Talk to people, ask how their day was...don't jump into all the details about your business unless the conversation takes you there, but make sure you exchange business cards before you move on to another conversation. Follow ups are key at networking events!
3. Advice and Inspiration: All of this boils down to the frame of mind you attend these events, with. Waking up in the morning hating the thought of the event will put you off track immediately. Try to understand where this negativity is coming from. You might find that you're dreading it because it's not within your comfort zone, or because you lack the confidence to approach people and start a conversation. Push your boundaries by taking baby steps. Challenge yourself to learn something new at the next event. Or simply try asking someone where the seminar room is, as a first step.
For further inspiration, I suggest watching these 2 videos (Video 1 and Video 2) on how to start and end conversations. There are various other online sources that can help you get ideas on how to approach people. Otherwise, if you prefer a face-to-face talk, we are happy to come over to your offices and provide consultation that is tailor-made for your business networking requirements. Send me an email on email@example.com for more information!