See Opportunity Everywhere: 6 Tips to Nail Networking
Your friend calls you, ‘Hey! I’ve seen a cool networking event coming up next week, wanna go?’. You internally cringe and make a face – nothing about ‘networking event’ sounds ‘cool’ to you. We all know that feeling… but I believe people fundamentally misunderstand networking and it’s gotten a bad rep over the years. The most generic form of networking has become our impression of what this word means, and as a result people tend to shy away and avoid it, saying things like ‘uh, I hate networking’.
Networking is actually one of the most crucial tools for growing your business. Your power is in your network. We all need a mindset shift. REAL networking is about the person you sit next to on the plane; the person you get talking to in the coffee shop; the person you met at a halloween party; your friend’s boyfriend’s brother. Networking is not about extracting value for yourself from another person, it is about creating meaningful connections with anyone and everyone, knowing that at some point in the future, there might be value (for you, or for them, or for both of you) in your connection. It’s about creating a life where you are ‘networking’ constantly. So, here are my top tips for how to network whenever, wherever.
1. Be Interesting
This might sound like a lot of pressure, but you and your business ARE interesting! If people see your passion and feel your excitement, even if you’re talking about selling paper, it will be interesting. People love storytelling, so find a story that links to your brand, or you, and work on telling it WELL. People always remember a good story, and you’ll stick in their mind next time they think of that product/service/topic.
2. Be Interested
You can’t expect to build meaningful connections unless you’re paying attention and listening. Don’t go into a conversation thinking ‘what can I get out of this’, be thinking ‘where can I add value’. If you go in with the right intentions, good things will come out.
3. Network online and offline
Technology has given us the ability to be connected globally far more easily than ever before. Use this to your advantage. Curate your LinkedIn page, spend time chatting in areas you know other like-minded individuals will be chatting, e.g the Future Females Facebook Group or your local community of whatever industry you’re in. Use platforms like Meetup to tie the online and offline networking together.
4. Have an out
This might sound a bit brutal, but it’s important, make sure you always have a way to get out of a conversation if need be. Your time is value, you want to use it making connections that interest you (see point 1 )
5. See opportunity everywhere
I know someone who met the person who gave her the initial investment for her business whilst sitting on a plane. You literally never know when you’re going to meet someone who’s going to have a bit impact on your business, or someone who you could help. The best networkers don’t just go to a network event and network, they are constantly getting to know the people around them and seeing potentially meaningful connections everywhere.
6. Always leave with a follow up – no matter what it is
If you see potential in a connection, never leave the end of your conversation ambiguous. Always ask for their contact info, and make sure that the onus is on YOU to contact THEM. e.g.’please can I have your email, I’d love to share an article I think you’d find really interesting’ or ‘can I get your card, I’d love to connect you with someone I know who might be able to help you with XXX’. The important part of this is that you then have an opening to follow up on the next stage of conversation, opening a window of communication going forward.
The subject of your conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be work/business related. Maybe you’ve met someone who you think might be a great connection, but you’ve chatted mainly about how much you both love dogs, so you could say ‘can I get your contact, I know a really interesting article about how dogs have evolved to manipulate human feelings, which I think you’d like!’ (which, incidentally I do, click here to read, and please feel free to use this as your follow up if need be! 😉). This opens a line of communication that you can continue, should you need to in the future.
The most important thing with networking (and pretty much every other area of life!), is to try and add value for someone else, and hopefully they will do the same for you. Go out there and enjoy making meaningful connections, and, TA DA, you’ve nailed networking.
Flora Fontes is the Marketing Manager at Future Females. She is now based in Cape Town, South Africa, but was born and raised in the UK. She is passionate about the written word, female empowerment, and the healing power of a bowl of coco pops. Her interest in Marketing started while working in France for Mountain Rooms & Chalets, and she further developed her skills while working for UK-based marketing company, JK Marketing, before moving to South Africa in 2018 and starting at Future Females.