Secrets of Successful Networking
Entering the search term “how to network” into Google provides a wealth of advice on networking: Networking for women, networking online, networking if you are shy, networking even if you hate networking, networking without saying a word…. The list goes on and on. The sheer variety of articles illustrates our genuine desire and interest in networking.
As other articles in this issue of the Networker have shown, networking is about building and developing relationships. The current thinking on networking focuses on the skills of giving and listening, and this is relevant to both networking in real life and online!
It is useful to break networking skills into three areas:
Preparation (before networking event)
Practice (during event)
Post Event (reflection, follow up)
It is valuable to spend time before an event considering three questions.
Why am I attending this event?
Do I have a specific aim in mind – for example, winning new business, finding information about a particular company, project, person, or just to extend my network?
What do I do?
Practice your elevator speech – a short, but memorable description of who you are, what you do, and most importantly, a hook for the listener to pick up on.
What can I offer?
Think about what you can bring to the event. What information, resources or contacts might you be able to offer to other people? Make sure that you have business cards or other relevant information ready.
As with all business skills, practice makes perfect!
Networkingwomen.co.uk suggests some very concrete tips . Wear your name badge on your right - when you shakes hands with someone, their eyeline will naturally fall here. Arriving early at the event makes it easier to start networking, large conversation groups will not yet have been formed. And my personal tip – ensure that your business cards are easy to reach, not hidden at the bottom of your bag!
When in conversation, focus on the other person. Ask questions and genuinely listen to the answer. Penelope Trunk on yahoo.com puts it like this: “Your job is to discover what you can learn from other people, and you learn something from everyone.” Everyone wants to be listened to! Approach the conversation with a genuine desire to learn and you will certainly engage with your networking partner!
Look for opportunities to help them, this could be as simple as introducing them to other people at the event who have a shared interest, or perhaps recommending resources such as books, website for example.
The hard work starts after the event is over. Review the business cards and make notes on the event - who you met, what you learnt and what you offered to other people. Enter new contact details into your personal system, whether that is an electronic or paper based address book. If you have offered to provide information to people, then do this follow-up as soon as possible after the event.
Finally, review your preparation questions: Why am I attending this event? What do I do? What can I offer? Consider whether the event enabled you to meet your objectives. Do you need to refine your elevator speech? What worked well? What will you do differently at the next event? This self reflection will help you to develop your networking skills.
It is extremely useful to create a networking space for yourself online. This can be done via professional social networking sites, or by creating and maintaining a blog.
Social networking sites such as Xing / Linkedin allow users to create a profile and then manage their list of professional contacts. A user profile will typically contain a photo, brief self-description, current work details, past work and study history and interests. Users then search for and add a list of contacts. These could be current or past colleagues, or new contacts made at work, during conferences, networking events. More importantly, I can see second degree contacts, that is to say, the contacts of my contacts. Through this network, users can job search, find out information about companies and develop work relationships.
Blogs such as livejournal, wordpress or blogger allow users to write posts on any subject, posts can include links to other websites, images and video clips. Bloggers can create a friend list and thereby develop informal networks through reading and commenting on each other’s posts.
The term networking can be used for many disparate activities, but it is important to remember that at is simplest, networking is about reaching out to other people and then making further connections.
PWG offers a safe, supportive environment for women to practice their networking skills. Our events are the perfect opportunity to network and share best practice with other women. How do other people network? How do other members network and find new business opportunities? Use the network to find answers to your questions and at the same time help others to achieve their networking goals!
Visit Networker Extra for a list of Networking resources; web articles, books and social networking websites.
Helen Palmer likes to network online! You can find her @