Some love to network, others prefer to hide in the bathrooms, most of us are just there for the drinks and snacks! We get it. Whether or not your role is directly related to relationship building or outbound sales, networking is one of the most valued skills in business. ⠀
Networking offers an organic platform for you to form business relationships. These may turn into business or employment opportunities, partnership potentials, sharing of knowledge and maybe even life-long friendships. I met my close friend and now employer, Giovanna at a networking event!
We’ve always found a wealth of knowledge shared when networking so whether you are looking for the perfect venue, a new employment opportunity or an incredible supplier to wow your guests at the next event, we highly suggest flexing your networking muscle and becoming a pro.
Here’s a few of tips to get your networking game to pro level.
How to Start a Conversation with a Stranger
If you are unsure of where to begin, the answer is always compliment genuinely. Genuinebeing a non-negotiable in this statement. It’s extremely easy to *ding* high on the bullsh*t radar when you are forcing a compliment. People will pick up on it and it will be the exact opposite effect of what you want.
If you don’t know how to start a conversation or feel a little awkward approaching a group who are already in discussion, a best practice you can start to implement is to compliment them. Often you won’t know anything about this person so the compliment will need to be on their appearance but if you can, dig deeper. For example, you may know something about their business, or you’ve heard them speak at an event.
To get yourself to pro level, practice this in your day to day activities. Find something unique and worth complimenting in every person you speak with. You don’t have to verbalise them all but think them. You’ll be amazed at how this changes the energy you give off in your conversations as well as the openness of strangers to chat with you.
How to Carry a Conversation Whilst Networking
The best networkers and relationship builders ask lots of questions. The fastest way to build rapport with a stranger is to find something in common. An easy guide to remember and use during networking is F.O.R.M. Use this as a guide to help you find common ground with your stranger quickly.
F – From or Family
Where did you grow up? Are you from here originally? Do you have any children?
O – Occupation
What are you doing in your current role? Where were you before this role? What’s the biggest challenge you find in your current role? What’s it like working from home?
R – Recreation
What do you do to keep fit? What are you up to this weekend? What do you do to destress from work?
M – Motivations
What motivated you to get into that line of work? What inspired you to start running/hiking (whatever they do for recreation)? I’d be out climbing every day if I could, what about yourself?
Don’t feel as though you need to ask everyone the same four questions in a row. Let the conversation run naturally but know that if the conversation does lull, you’ve got F.O.R.M to back you up.
A Must Do When Networking
Be interested NOT interesting. We have all experienced being cornered at an event and having someone speak AT you for 10 minutes while you desperately try to find an escape route. Don’t be that person. Ask questions, not just the surface level variety.
When they finish speaking, don’t change the subject to you, ask them more questions so you really find out who they are. A really great tip I’ve learnt along the way is the three second rule (not to be confused with the five second food on the floor rule). When someone finishes speaking, pause and count to three in your head. This gives the other person time to add to their part. It means you don’t cut anyone off and it’s your turn to contribute. Use this opportunity to show you’ve listened by asking further questions to delve deeper into your new found friend. Ask about their challenges in their role, ask about their favourite part of their holiday, ask about their kids interests. Simply ask more. If you want better answers, you have to ask better questions.
Set a Networking Goal
A small change we made last year was to set goals and targets against our networking efforts. Rather than turning up to networking events and hoping for the best, we decided that we had to come away with 6 business cards which we would follow up to convert to 3 coffee meetings.
Why? We were getting complacent, seeking out the people we already knew and defaulting to hiding in the bathroom (kidding). Putting actionable and measurable goals in place took our efforts to the next level and made our networking time and effort worthwhile.
Why it’s Worth Practicing the Skill of Networking this Year
Networking is a skill and just like all other skills, when practiced, it becomes easier and more natural. Whether it is to build your knowledge in your market place or to drive growth in your role increase your personal brand, networking is a vital skill which needs to be on your 2019 “To Master” list.
We look forward to seeing you at the next networking event!