Networking isn’t easy. There’s an art to working a room, and connecting with the right people. Before you can properly network, you need to identify three things.
- Establish why you need to network in the first place.
- Work out who you should be networking with and why you’re the perfect match.
- Determine how you’re going to engage with them? What’s your style, your approach and your tactics?
If you can put together a strategic approach to combining these 3 core elements, you’re onto a winning networking strategy. With that in mind, we’ve put together some networking tips that can help you when planning your networking strategy.
why should you be networking?
It all starts with ‘why?’ Why are you doing this? Why are you here today? Start by defining what you want to achieve from networking and highlight the goals you feel that best align with your ‘why’. The best tip I’ve ever been given is to understand ‘why’ you’re a valuable asset, or ‘why’ you need to network in the first place. So don’t forget this important first step.
- Work out your goal – what are your career ambitions? What are you looking to achieve in life? What are your values that you hold dearly? Put together a map and work out how these link together. Highlight the most important and define your networking goal from both a personal and business perspective.
- Why does this relate to your targets – understanding why you’re networking and why you matter, is one of the key pieces of information that will help you target who to network with. You may need to work on identifying who you’re networking with before using this tip. That way, you can take your ‘why’, your identified networking targets and use them to work out why how and why you’re a perfect match. What makes you the person they need to talk to?
identifying who it is you need to network with
Knowing who it is you need to network with is just as tough as knowing why you need to talk to them, and how you’re going to connect with them. These tips will help you identify who are the people you need to connect with at the event.
- Do your research – usually, with a little initiative, you can find out who will be at the networking event. Furthermore, with a little research, you can find out who they are on a personal level. You can also find out their role, their industry and more the topics they engage with through following them on LinkedIn. This way, you can interact with them beforehand, begin to build a relationship and make sure they recognise you.
- The eye is in the detail – it may sound obvious, but you can tell who you need to network with when you look around the room. Subtle nuances such as posture, gestures and the way others around are engaging with individuals can tell you all you need to know about the room and who you need to reach out to, so keep a look out!
- Understand where the conversation is heading – if it’s going nowhere, you need to recognise, fast. Time is limited at networking events, and we’ve all got an agenda. If you’re speaking to old friends, colleagues or clients, recognise whether this is friendly chatter or an opportunity. If this is a new contact but has no value to your main goal from networking, then keep it short and pleasant. You never know, you may wish to network with them in the future.
working out how to engage with your targets
OK so now you’ve done your research, you know your networking targets, and why you need to connect with them. All that’s left is to know how you’re going to network with them. Get your tactics right, and you’re on the path to successfully become a networking master.
There’s plenty of business networking tips to help you to understand how to engage with others. We’re going to focus on four for now, but do feel free to search ‘networking tips’ and you’ll find plenty more chunks of advice that you can put into practice when networking.
- Be present and mindful – it’s no good knowing why you’re at a networking event and not being in the moment and mindful of those around you. You’ve scoped out your targets, worked on your message and now all you have to do is be yourself and in the moment.
- Listen and be heard – the best networkers know the difference between making a clear and insightful point and waffling. Don’t be a waffler! Make sure that you’re adding value to your conversations. After all, you’ve done some real hard work in identifying your targets, whilst doing your ‘pre-networking’ engagement activities with them, so don’t put all that time and effort to waste.Also, you need to listen. Relationships are built on two-way communication, so listen for openings to engage more with your target. The information you gain from listening will enable you to showcase just how valuable you are to them.
- Know your stuff – the key to speaking with confidence is knowing your stuff. Providing insight based on industry knowledge, experience and trends is what separates the masters from the novices and will make you stand out as a ‘go-to’ for insight and knowledge. When you create this sort of reputation, you become the person people want to network with, not the other way around.
- Body language – it might seem fairly obvious but when it comes to the crunch, so many networkers forget to keep an eye on how they come across. In professional networking, you need to make the right level of eye-contact – nothing too full on as you’ll come across as a bit of a creep, but not too little as you’ll come across awkward and lacking in confidence. With this, you can lose the interest of your target and that’s most certainly not what you want.Use your hands to demonstrate your point. Don’t wave them around too much or you might take someone’s eye out! But seriously, the most confident orators often use subtle hand gestures when demonstrating a point. This draws attention towards you and what you’re saying. Thus giving you the opportunity to come across as a leader.Posture is just as important! Ensure you’re stood straight, relaxed shoulders with your chest out. Again, this is about finding the right balance that demonstrates confidence, whilst not coming across too cocky.
There we have it – the three core stages you need to master to become the best networker you can be. Now go out there, take over some events and become the person every wants to network with.
If you’ve got any tips of your own feel free to leave them in our comments section. We love to hear from you!