Networking, the bane of business! I was recently asked to give a talk about networking to students at the University of Cumbria. We filmed it for content, an example of Event Video in action (shameless plug over)! Hope you get some benefit from it.
Definition of Networking
“Meeting people, finding and talking with ones you can help and the ones who can help you, and arranging a follow up meeting”
I think this is the best definition of networking that I have come across. I start with this because a lot of misconceptions exist around what networking is. It isn’t about selling, it isn’t a waste of time and it doesn’t have to be painful.
I would guess that you have networked already without realising it. Ever introduced one friend to another because they have a shared interest? Bang. You’ve networked.
The idea for business networking is to meet new people that you can help and who can help you. It is about getting your name out there associated with what you do. It is about arranging meetings after the event if this is a relevant action. These don’t have to be sales meetings, they can be chats over coffee.
Use of Networking
Have often do you Google something? Ever considered asking your network? You’d get ‘search results’ from people you trusted and respected, you’d get instant reviews and ratings from them too. This is of clear benefit to you and the people in other’s network.
Imagine if you had to build a search engine every time you wanted to Google something? Pretty useless.
So why would you not want to build your network before hand? The more people in your network, the wider your net of results.
Networking can be used for:
3. Advice and Best Practice
4. Keeping Informed
5. Sales Referrals
Only 1/5th of this list is around money and no where on there is a mention of direct selling. Its not for networking, it can be a goal for the follow up meeting but it doesn’t have to be. There is more value in your network than simple money.
Networking How To
To get the most out of a networking experience you should:
Before the Event
1. Define who you want to meet. What are the gaps in your network? Who be helpful to people you do know? Who could be helpful to you?
2. Do a little research on who is attending beforehand, look for business activity and areas of common interest
At the Event
3. Look for the people you have researched but don’t be averse to talking to interesting people
4. Look for people who want to talk. Their body language will be open rather than closed
5. Be interested in other people. I find the best way to start a conversation is by asking a question about the other person. They’ll become more comfortable with you quickly and are more likely to ask you questions.
After the Event
6. Follow up. There is a reason for the business cards being handed out. Just an email or a phone call to say it was nice meeting will suffice. If there is a chance that a meeting would be of mutual benefit, suggest having a coffee together
I continued talking (as I am known to do) about how networking expands into social media.