Networking is an essential part of persuasion. Whether you realise it or not, you network all the time, often without realising it, with friends, family, and colleagues.
You’re networking at the dog park when you ask that cute Labradoodle’s owner what they do for a living, when you are walking out of the gym chatting to someone who just exercised in the same spin class as you, or when you meet a friend for coffee, and their neighbour drops in and joins you.
You never know where that next important connection will happen in life.
In these situations, our natural personality takes over, and we are either interested in meeting people or too busy and preoccupied to care.
My research into persuasion has found that we should all be more mindful when we are out and about and possibly meeting (networking) with others if we want to strengthen our relationships and become more successful.
Do you cringe at the professional working event?
Most of us attend formal networking events to meet new people, create productive working relationships and learn new things.
We know from experience that when you stand out for all the right reasons in a networking situation, you’re the one who will be remembered.
This can lead to persuasive moments and opportunities that move you forward in life.
However, most people admit to either cringing at having to attend them, or at least not fully realising the event’s potential.
I recently spoke at an event for a law firm and its clients. It was funny but dreadful.
The lawyers stood at one side of the room chatting amongst themselves and the clients stood awkwardly waiting for someone to come and say hi.
Instead of making networking your worst nightmare, and a horror for your prospects, it’s time to reframe the point of networking and charge forward to get the best possible outcomes for everyone involved.
What is networking?
Networking is the art of getting to know people for mutual long-term benefit.
The idea is that you might be able to help someone out, and they may also be able to help you.
Sometimes you learn from the conversation.
Sometimes there’s a contact you can introduce someone to, sometimes there’s a supplier or provider that the person you meet can recommend for you.
How to master networking
There are many subtleties in effective networking.
Let’s look at seven essential actions for effective networking that you can finesse today.
Do your research! Acquire the list of delegates and find out who will be at the event.
Work out the best person to meet to maximise your return on attending.
What do they need in their businesses? Are you the right person to help them?
The more time you spend planning before the event, the more value you will gain from attending.
Handy tip – Look people up on social media and read through their profiles before attending so you know who you can most help.
2. Believe in yourself
You need to believe that you have what this person needs.
If you don’t have what this person needs, give a shorter answer, and let them talk about themselves instead, or help them find someone else to talk to who is better suited to their needs.
Give direct connected eye contact when meeting people. Smile warmly. Find humour where you can.
Listen carefully, and if you don’t have what the person needs, be quick and responsive at recommending someone else of high quality who does.
Maree is a connector. She works for herself, and she needs all the clients she can find.
But she’s also very good at knowing when the person she’s talking to at a networking event needs someone else (other than her).
When she works that out, she is so on top of ‘who is who’ in her profession that she’s quick to make warm connections happen immediately.
A warm connection is where both parties find it incredibly easy to connect and get straight into doing business together.
Maree is an invaluable part of her industry and the go-to person regardless of your needs.
Of course, the upside for Maree is that while she may lose some business at times (when she refers the person to a colleague), she’s also the first person everyone turns to when they need her products and services.
Be a connector. Serve others and you’ll end up serving yourself!
4. Don’t become a crazy card person!
My friend Kirsty Spraggon, a speaker and TV host, introduced me to this concept.
You know that person who runs around the networking event thrusting their business card at people who don’t want one?
She calls them the crazy card person! Instead, take your time, work the room, build meaningful relationships, and only swap details if it’s in everyone’s interest.
5. Be careful not to sound rehearsed
The key to sounding natural is to rehearse your key messages about your life, your products and services until you don’t sound rehearsed anymore.
Practise repeatedly until you sound natural and authentic.
6. Don’t brag
No one likes a braggart.
7. Follow up
You don’t go to a networking event to stay static. You attend so you can meet people who can promote you and/or your product or who could buy your product or service.
So, remember this and use the event wisely. Contact every person you spoke to at the event and tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them, and urge them to go to the next stage (whatever that might be).
For example, “Hi Sally, it was great to meet you at the event. Here’s the article I mentioned”.
Or, “Hi James, I was wondering if you could share the details of your sister, the one you mentioned is the graphic artist. I may have some work for her”.
Networking is essential if you want to be good at creating positive first impressions.
Which of the seven actions mentioned here are you already doing, and which ones do you need to focus on more?
Make a plan today to ensure you get the best outcomes from your next networking event.