Networking made easy in five steps



'Tis the season ... to network! But if you find plunging into a roomful of strangers a complex, anxiety-inducing, heart-pumping experience, don't worry - you are not alone!

So many people find the idea of ‘working the room’ daunting, and as we race towards Christmas, everyone will be attending a flurry of work and social engagements which will seriously require putting on your game-face.

But if you also adopt a growth mindset before you go, you can get so much more out of the event. It’s about being positive, present, curious, receptive to offers of help and generous with your time.

Here are five quick tips to improve your networking skills:-

1.     Be strategic

Do you view that tower of dog-eared business cards on your desk as a sign that you’ve been doing some great networking? Be ruthless – which of those contacts is really going to be useful to you (or vice versa) in the next three years?
Pick your targets and pursue them for their uses. Think of seven areas where you need help, guidance or funding and find the right people to talk to. Actively seek out people with diverse views and world experience to enlarge your own thinking. The empty exchange of wallet-busting business cards is a waste of time.

2.     Be positive

Make sure you are fully present in each conversation. Don’t be that person scanning the room while you’re talking. Approach each conversation with an open mind and your best energy. The next person you talk to could turn into your next mentor or sponsor, investor, boss, client or team member. That said, extract yourself tactfully when you need to!

3.     Be curious

Focus on being interested rather than being interesting. Everyone you meet can teach you something you don’t know. If you’re feeling shy, ask questions and be open to the replies. Curiosity boosts your new contact’s confidence to share and ensures you connect on a deeper level. Don’t assume it will be only ‘small talk’. This takes the focus away from you. Listen to the responses and converse – don’t just play fact table tennis.

4.     Connect sideways

Pursue those you think will be generous enough to connect you to people, even if they can’t help themselves. Repay the favour with others – you’ll be remembered for it.

5.     Follow-up

Don’t let a warm contact go cold through lack of time investment. A quick call, an invitation for coffee, or even sharing a link to a news story they might be interested in could lead to a long-term and fruitful collaborative relationship.

And finally … networking doesn’t have to be at a staged event. A call or email to introduce yourself to, or reconnect with someone to tell them you admire what they do, will always be warmly welcomed.

Good luck!