Too often people go networking to sell and gain something straight away, instead of building relationships. A long time ago when I first started my the networking scene in 1999 for the company I worked for people would say ‘speak to Mark Linton he will know.’ This was because I spent time working the room and engaging with people – not selling.
To quote a good friend who said to me recently: ‘People don’t use networking to get to know people. All they are interested in is getting your business card and moving on.’ This is called farming and businesses who get seen to do this will be ousted.
With the introduction of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so many other social media platforms, companies and contacts have become like white noise, drowning out relationship building in favour digital overload. Face to face networking is therefore one of the most important tools businesses have.
What should you do when networking:
- Get there early and see who is new
These people are easily spotted as they often standing on their own looking apprehensive. Remember: you are the seasoned networker and you are the go to, connected person – so make the connection.
- Use your knowledge and connect people:
Often, when we get to networking events we all are busy congratulating each other, catching up, standing in big groups, laughing and joking. To you and the people you are with, that’s a natural thing to do. To the virgin networker onlooker, this more closely resembles a rugby scrum and is understandably intimidating.
What to do as an Ambassador:
- Be aware of spaces, create gaps for people to approach the group.
Body language is important in making everyone feel welcome. At networking events, it doesn’t matter if you have known someone for ten minutes or ten years. Everyone is there to expand their web of contacts. If anything, it is better to properly catch up with old contacts last, in order to avoid missing out on introducing yourslef to fresh faces.
- When someone approaches the group, make them feel welcome and ask a question which allows them to introduce themselves to everyone.
Aside from being polite, this is a good way to give new people an opportunity to speak and ensure they don’t go unnoticed.
How to approach groups:
- Find a group that has larger spaces and where conversations are open.
- Position yourself in a way that demonstrates you are listening, try to mke eye contact and wait for a natural break in the conversation.
- When the break comes, introduce yourself with a short pitch about yourself. Then wait for questions but don’t sell.
What happens if no break in the conversation happens?
Simply walk away. You will not be able to get involved with everyone and if the group is too closed or if in some situations the conversation is private, you might be wasting
Over the years I have found these tips work and have helped both me, my team and clients achieve more from networking. Remember: networking is not a spectator’s sport. It is a skill that you have to constantly work at.