What do we mean by ‘networking?’
Networking is ‘to act in such a way to meet as many people as you can in order to build and maintain a social and/or professional network.’ In a professional context, having a network is indispensable because it can supply you with resources (relationships, expertise, information etc) which you may lack. But what can we do to increase this network? How do we network effectively? Techniques and ways to increase networks are often different for different people. Let’s be clear on one thing: there isn’t only one way to network effectively! It depends on personality, context, and who you are with etc. But if you aren’t a natural, don’t worry. There are some general rules/tips which will help you to improve.
How do you network effictively?
1. Show initiative getting in contact
Don’t wait until the person is in front of you to contact them.
Anticipate the event
You have decided to attend an event to increase your knowledge (as well as for taking advantage of the nibbles…). Look at the tools the organizers have put in place, surely there will be a dedicated event app. Make sure you look at it in advance, you will be able to find lots of interesting information like the guest list. You can see who you think it would be interesting to meet and send them meeting requests. This will save you time on the day of the event: there’s no longer any need to go from room to room looking for important people, you will already have meetings with them. Technology’s great, isn’t it!
Social networks do what they say on the tin
A site like LinkedIn which has over 225 million members is a vital tool for finding important contacts. Fill in your profile and ask members of your network to recommend you. From now on the process is a lot easier, there is no longer any need to write an entire cover letter (which is far too time consuming!), you can now just add in a few key words (like ‘Marketing’ or ‘Event Organizer’). Join ‘Groups’ : these can act as places to exchange ideas where people with similar ideas can come together. There are over a million groups on LinkedIn, so there will definitely be something to suit you.
2. Work on how to present yourself
The people you are dealing with will undoubtedly be approached by plenty of other people, you have to know how to make yourself stand out in the first few minutes. Prepare an elevator pitch: this is a quick and effective way to present yourself. The idea is that you can say all this in the time it takes for an elevator journey: a real challenge! How do you say, in an interesting way (!) who you are, what you do and who you work for in less than 2 minutes? I have been given some useful advice on this, which I can share with you now:
Ask the right questions
Say what you are looking for when you meet someone in order to make your conversation objective. Try and do this in one sentence, for example ‘I am a Communications Manager looking to build partnerships.’
Illustrate your pitch with an example to give it more impact. It’s best if you can talk about a client and go through this in the ‘4Ps’: Profile: Describe a situation and give an example of a client (industry, size, sector etc.) Problem: What the problem you met was Product: What product allowed you to respond to the client’s needs Prospect: Bring the conversation towards what things you could work together on.
The world doesn’t (unfortunately) revolve around you
Your presentation shouldn’t be any longer than 2 minutes and don’t forget to show an interest in the person you are speaking to! After all, who doesn’t like talking about themselves? Asking questions will not only allow you to please the person you’re talking to, but also learn more so you can adapt what you want to say next.
Words: an old-fashioned concept
Think about body language. Remember than in a conversation, the person you are speaking to forms an opinion of you based 7% on what you say, 38% on the tone of your voice and 55% on your body language, your face, the way you say things. This means non-verbal aspects account for 93% of our communication! I advise you to stand up straight, have a smile on your face, to look your speaker in the eyes, and not to fold your arms. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, you can always take a glass of champagne 😉
Get out there!
Congratulations Once you’ve tested your speech with your entourage, it’s time to get going with your network. On the day, don’t forget that it is quality not quantity that counts. The most important thing is to meet the right people, not to talk to everyone: target whho you want to meet.
3. Cultivate a link
Congratulations, you have met some new people, but it isn’t enough to just collect business cards, you need to make sure these links become long term connections.
Email your new contacts
In the 2 days after meeting your new contacts, send them an email. Briefly remind them who you are and thank them for their time. Finish the email by proposing a new meeting.
Make the new meeting happen
If you haven’t already, add your contacts on your social networks. Are you organizing a product launch, an open doors day, a webinar or something else? Ask whether your new contacts want to come to your next event. This will allow you both to show your products in more detail, and to maintain contact. If you don’t have an event in mind, you can always suggest an informal lunch. Few people aren’t tempted by the call of a good restaurant 🙂 Suggest they register for your newsletter. This will ensure that your contacts stay informed with what you’re up to. If you don’t have a newsletter, you can tell them to visit your blog or website.