Networking Beyond Words

Networking Beyond Words

The very mention of the word “networking” can strike fear in the hearts and minds of many. In fact, such social gatherings are often given a body swerve for one reason or another much to the detriment of a business.

However, networking is a valued means of building relationships, sourcing new suppliers, being introduced to potential clients and increasing your revenue.

Successful business networks bring like-minded people together to form leads that result in better business for everyone involved. Formal or informal, the key to success is authenticity; authentic image, authentic works, and authentic action. Here are some of our top tips to guide you on your way.


Your Networking Route

Choosing the right networking group for you and your business is the first step to ensuring you succeed. Your short, medium, and long-term goals will determine the type of networking that is right for you. So, it is therefore important that you recognise your capacity, your limitations and the financial costs involved to make your investment worthwhile.

There are hundreds of thousands of networking organisations in the UK, all requiring different levels of participation and remuneration fees. Some events are free of charge and also worth seeking out. Take a look at a couple of examples below:

  • BNI – A nationwide network with more than 200,000 members, BNI is a serious outfit that requires commitment to weekly meetings and active lead generation or referrals.
  • 4N – This is an accessible and less costly national network that has removed the shackles of formality. This network brings businesses together at local, regional, and national levels offering great opportunities for promotion.
  • Chamber of Commerce & Local Economic Enterprises – Promotes forums and events centred around information sessions over lunch, breakfast, drinks or entertainment in local venues.
  • YENA – A networking group for young entrepreneurs & professionals YENA runs over 56 events across the country. It offers the opportunity to share challenges, ideas thoughts or presentations in a confidential room of other members.


Your Comfort Zone

Usually, networking events involve some level of self-introduction which is where your “A” game comes in.

Individuals who attend, want you to succeed so if you are daunted at the prospect of introducing yourself to strangers, speaking publicly, and making even the shortest of presentations read on. There are a few golden rules to guide you.

However, first to remember is that it’s important to offer information of interest to other people. That way they are more likely to engage with what you say. A salesy pitch will not always be well received where other networkers are on high alert for authenticity. At the end of the day the networking exchange is a 2-way process where first impressions count.

  • Research – Take the time to research the networking organisation you plan on attending. Consider their requirements of you and take a look at who the other attendees are is possible. What better impression than arriving at your first meeting with a referral at the ready?
  • Event Etiquette – Ensure you’re aware of the correct timings and dress code. Get there early and dress appropriately to ensure you create the right first impression. Avoid standing in the corner like a rabbit caught in headlights and take the step to introduce yourself first.
  • Make a List – Pre-plan who you would like to talk to at the networking group. If you’re a little nervous, contact the host in advance to ask for specific introductions if you need to.


Network Mingling

Once you get to your chosen event your small talk journey begins. Your appearance, your body language, your eye contact, and your smile will all strike an impression before you utter a single word.

Mingling is the next step and usually it’s easier than you expect. So, where do you start? How do you join a group of complete strangers without feeling like a complete lemon? It’s really very simple, choose your moment, walk straight over and simply say “do you mind if I join you?”. The conversation will take off from there and more experienced networkers are likely to take the lead.

But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels!

  • Listen well, keep good eye contact, be attentive, and ask relevant questions.
  • Be prepared to ask thought provoking questions to encourage new thinking, opinion, and information sharing.
  • Remember to be yourself, your personality and wider interests are an important tool in social networking. People remember how you make them feel so striking the right chord is important in creating long last friendships in business.
  • Be a super-connector wherever you can. Business referrals work magic by strengthening relationships. More often than not, referrals are reciprocated to the benefit of both parties.
  • Following up a lead is part of the authenticity process which builds up trust. Bring your business card, be specific about your intention to stay in contact and factor in time to follow up.


The Networking Challenge

Networking is a growth industry with many companies choosing to set up their own events to increase their profile and to enhance their reputation as community leaders and specialists in their field.

Day or night, there are events out there waiting to connect and help to propel your business forward. Networking is invariably a social process, it will challenge your comfort zone, your vision, and your respect for colleagues and customers will be tried and tested.

There are many reasons why people find the experience challenging. Regular attendees may become bored. New attendees may be daunted at the prospect. And experimental networkers may simply not be focussed enough to make their time effective in paying off in business.

In short, successful business networking will pay off with a combination of thorough preparation, clear focus, genuine engagement, and the will to follow through.

Posted by Paul Randall
26th March 2017