I have been in business for two years and during that time I have attended lots of networking events. You would think I would be experienced at this and be walking away with lots of business cards and invites to ‘meet for a coffee’.
The thing is I am still unsure how to interact with people at these events. Lots of times I have spent the evening talking soley to the host and not making a connection with anyone. I would love to know how to get the best from networking. Can you help?
best, Kerry, South London
Thank for getting in touch. The good news for you is that you’re not alone. More importantly this can be easily resolved with some planning, preparation and putting a few actions into practice.
Lots of people find networking ineffective, nerve-wracking, daunting, and overwhelming –and hence the scenario you describe. It’s not about how selling or gathering as many business cards as you can, it’s about building mutually beneficial, win-win relationships organically, authentically and strategically.
So here are some tips to help
Be strategic / specific: Write a short simple strategic plan for your business with clear goals of what you want to achieve and action steps. Within this, or separately write a one page plan of the specific contacts, connections, customers, suppliers, professionals and expertise you have and need.
That means that you can 1) start utilising your existing networking more effectively and 2) when you’re out and about networking you’ll be focused and will be far more effective – you’ll know and spot those people you should be chatting to.
It’s a bit like shopping with a shopping list as opposed to wasting time, money and energy without one. But while you do this always keep your eyes / ears open, you never know who you might meet and who they might know.
Be smart, scan and swoop, sharp and selective: The next thing is to think about where to network.
Smart: Good networking usually is a blend of networking where
1) potential clients / employers are
2) where your peers and key industry figures are
3) where suppliers and complimentary businesses to you may be.
It’s also about looking smart and in line with your brand and the kind of business you wish to attract.
Scan & swoop: Look for and try out a range of different events. There are industry specific events, women’s events, themed events, formal and informal events, conferences, exhibitions and event at all sorts of times and places. See which places suit you. Ask your network, try things out, mix and match – to get the right blend.
Sharp: When networking, look the part, be present, personable, professional and interested in what others are saying. Also, explain what you do in a way that is clear, crisp, concise, compelling – and relevant to who you’re speaking to.
Selective / supportive: Spot those people who have shared values but differing skills. It’s those with similar values whom you’re most likely to do business with, give business to and gain business from. See it as though you’re building a supporting cast of all the expertise you may need. Follow up, meet up, keep in touch, share, swap skills, introduce and help each other.
Be yourself: Above all be you. So many people are turned off by people who seem fake or on the make. Share your passion, personality and professionalism. This will make people feel comfortable with you. This will help you relax and attract the right connections. If you focus on the rapport, relationship and respect and you are relevant and responsive; then opportunities and business will follow. I call this approach ‘serve don’t sell’ and this makes networking far more effective.
Best wishes, Rasheed
Do you have a question for Rasheed? Email him here
PS. If you want to sharpen up on all these things, then come along to Rasheed’s Networking for Success event at the British Library
About your coach: and his approach: Rasheed Ogunlaru is a leading life coach, motivational speaker and business coach. His clients include entrepreneurs, Chief Executives, entertainers, teachers, healers and organisations.
He often appears in the media including appearances on BBC and ITV News. He is the life/business coach partner to the British Library’s Business & IP Centre where he runs a monthly workshop for new and established business owners and sole traders.
Rasheed is renowned for his ‘become who you are’ approach that helps people of all background find greater fulfilment in all areas of their lives, careers, businesses and relationships – from within. He’s a co-host of the PRECIOUS Awards and a popular member of our team of specialists.
Web: www.rasaru.com Twitter @rasheedogunlaru