Off to a networking event this evening, “An evening with Ian Rush”, should be interesting, not least because it will be a chance to meet arguably the greatest goal scorer to ever play for Liverpool.
When I coach people in business and we speak about networking the vast majority express a certain dislike for networking and tend to view it with trepidation. Some describe it as boring, a waste of time and an intimidating experience; whereas others see it as an opportunity to have a drink and something to eat on the way home from work.
The fact of the matter is that, while it can be hard work, it can also be an extremely rewarding use of your time. Successful business is built on relationships and cultivating lasting relationships with others can lead to not just more work for you or your company, but also to enjoyment and fulfillment of what you do in life.
The best networkers I know are good at asking questions, letting the other person talk and listening to the answers. They demonstrate interest in others and then they follow up with the people they have met, with a phone call, letter or e-mail. The very best ones will attend a business networking event knowing which people are attending and who they specifically want to talk to, but they won’t talk at people or try the heavy sales pitch. It is about cultivating the relationship and allowing it to grow. The analogy I have seen before is that they are farmers rather than hunters.
It helps, when attending a networking event, if you bear in mind that most people in the room don’t feel particularly comfortable at networking and perhaps view it in the same way you do. Be ready with a short concise overview for when people ask what you do. Don’t ramble and bore them senseless. If they show interest suggest you contact them to arrange to get together for a coffee so you can discuss how you might be able to help each other.
It also helps if you take some cards and a pen with you!