How to Network: 5 Top Business Networking Tips
Posted on 28th June 2017 in The Forecast
Written by Freya Hughes
The biggest challenge of networking is turning a handshake into a valuable connection. In ‘The Social Network’, Mark Zuckerberg states: “I don’t want friends.” It’s contradictory statement considering his life’s work, but it’s exactly that which has catapulted him to international fame. While you’ll need to make a good impression, you also need to be unforgettable. So get offline, and get out there. We’ve rounded up some useful advice to get you networking like a pro, making dwindling LinkedIn connections a thing of the past.
Making connections is a key part of professional life. From intern to business owner, you need to be filling up your contacts list from the off. Business networking is not something that people tend to enjoy, as it can be a little awkward and hard to get going. So, if you’re sick of wasting your time nursing a drink chatting to people that aren’t relevant to your business, we’ve summed up the best ways to get connecting. Business networking shouldn’t be taking up too much of your time, so read on to discover how you can network efficiently, and use your time to focus on your business.
Make a good first impression
Don’t be afraid to give someone you’ve just met a compliment. Business Insider states that people associate the adjectives you use to describe other people with your personality. Therefore, if you remark that an acquaintance is welcoming and friendly, they’ll probably think that of you. Besides, who doesn’t love a compliment?
Keep in mind who you’re looking to connect with. If you’ve turned up to a networking event and know who you need to speak to that’s a fantastic start. When you make first contact with them, tell them how much you enjoyed their most recent blog post, product, redesign – anything! If people know you’re following them (online, preferably) and taking an interest in their business and/or life they’ll be keen to find out why. This is your in – you’ll have attracted their attention enough to make your case as to why you should connect.
If your networking looks more like the image on the left, you’re missing out making a real connection to people. Don’t hide behind your screen, aim for your meet ups to look more like the image on the right – you’ll get much more out of your time.
Displaying relaxed, and even casual body language, shows the person you’re speaking with that you feel comfortable and familiar with them. If you display comfort, it’ll project to the other person, who will likely mimic it and, before you know it, your conversation will be flowing. People react to body language more than spoken word, as we found out earlier this year. It’s predicted that 90% of information sent to the brain is visual, and an enormous 93% of human communication is visual. Never underestimate the power of your physical actions – it could lead to a valuable life-long collaboration.
Pay attention to who you’re speaking to
“The average attention span is eight seconds. Paying attention makes you more memorable and your communication richer,” writes author of How to Be a Power Connector, Judy Robinett. Eight seconds is not a long time, so this strongly links to your first impression. If a person considers you impassioned by your business, they will start to believe in it as much as you. Positivity is contagious, so enter social situations with some goals: speak to everyone that you set out to, but make sure you come across interested and focused on what they’re saying. Making an effort to really listen could lead to a conversation that would be beneficial to your business.
‘Pay attention’ may seem obvious, however, when meeting new people in business or your personal life, it’s surprising how many of us aren’t engaged. Constant worries of how your business might be performing, who just texted you or even if you might hit rush hour on the way home keep our minds thoroughly distracted. But don’t let it. When it comes to networking, sometimes it’s easier to ‘fake it till you make it’. Even Beyonce created an alter ego, and Sasha Fierce helped her mission to take over the world. An outlet to express a different side of her personality, take a leaf out of Beyonce’s book – her music may never have developed the way it has without it.
(Re)Connect on social media
There’s a great chance that you’re already doing this one, and if you are keep it up! If your conversation has come to a natural close, take a moment to exchange social media information. LinkedIn is, of course, a great one to connect on, but also consider asking for personal accounts on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. You’ll have a more one-to-one connection, away from colleagues on both sides, which should give you more opportunity to speak candidly. Simply sending a message on social media allows the other person time to consider the invite for coffee, or whatever it may be, which is less pressure than cold calling them.
For example, following a journalist and interacting with them on a personal level is a great way to to build a relationship. If you’re after some media coverage, they’re far more likely to accept if the request comes from a friend rather than just a faceless email address. Remember that everyone’s human – don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, as the people you want to speak to will have already gone through the same thing.
Get to know their peers
Your referrals come from customers that know you and your business well. Getting to know the people that could refer your services to others is a free way of marketing your business, so it makes sense to get out there.
If you have someone in mind that you’d like to create a professional relationship with, see if you can meet some people from their professional ‘inner circle’. Are there any events their company are putting on? Is there a work anniversary you could send your congratulations for?
If none of these seem like an option, simply sending an email or message on social media to introduce yourself is a great idea, and if you’ve already met you’ll be reinforcing your branding, self and ambition to them.
Keep up with connections you’ve already made. Sending the occasional message will keep the relationship going, so don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to remain firm friends with every single one.
When you’ve managed to get on the radar of people you’d like to know, you’re going to need to keep these connections going. As mentioned above, sending a message to them every so often to check in is a great plan as it’s a relaxed way of staying in touch. It is, however, often advised to meet in person as meetings will be shorter, engagement will be higher, and communication will be better understood.
Having an anniversary party, or anything to celebrate an achievement, will express your pride and passion for your business to others. Meeting in person is always best, and if you can inject some fun into the situation, that’s even better.
Forming professional relationships can be a challenge at times, but we’re all human, and many of us working towards our own versions of personal success. Once you’ve made a connection, make sure you nurture it as they could well be the person to give you your next investment, or they could know a fantastic accountant or advisor that they could recommend to you. Connecting to others will save you time on projects as you’ll have people on hand who are able (and hopefully willing) to help out. This will make your working life more efficient, freeing you up to grow and nurture your company.
You’re making yourself a professional support network who will be able to enhance your business journey, especially if you connect to a range of people. So, get yourself out there and meeting new people – the next person you meet could change the discourse of your professional life forever.