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Throughout the year I provide networking tips for a network newsletter that goes out on a monthly basis. With that in mind, I thought I’d put them together in a blog to get you planning and thinking about how you are going to approach networking in 2022.
Here are my 11 tips if you’re planning to start networking in 2022.
1. How to Introduce Yourself at a Networking Event or Meeting
Start with ‘My name is…’ rather than ‘I’m…’
Why? By telling people that you are about to give your name, they are more intent on listening to hear it and remember it. If you start with ‘I’m…’ you could be about to say, I’m getting a cup of coffee, I’m leaving, I’m going to a meeting…’ and people aren’t really engaged. When networking, you want people to remember your name, so give people the chance to listen carefully. It also offers the opportunity for people to ask for you to repeat it or clarify it, if your name is unusual.
If you are not used to introducing yourself, practice saying ‘My name is XXX’ in front of the mirror until you become comfortable with it. You can expand this out to, e.g. ‘My name is Jane Doe and my business is X’.
2. Default Your Networking
Many people think that networking is either something that you can do or you can’t. Shy people and introverts think that they simply can’t network. And I say this is wrong. Networking is a learned skill. It takes practice, discipline, perseverance and consistency to hone this skill. So whether you are shy, an introvert, starting in business – don’t be daunted.
The best time to start is now and it’ll be one of the best investments you ever make in you and your business. Networking is a soft skill that leads you to grow in so many ways from presenting & communicating to leadership and emotional/empathetic skills.
For me, the process of networking has to be defaulted into the diary. Make it a priority. I start the month by putting the networking events into my diary – they are sacrosanct. This time is my time to meet other business owners, to work on my business, to learn and to grow. All other meetings with staff, suppliers, customers…they’ll always be there and you can wrap those meetings around the time set aside for networking.
3. How Many Networks
This is a question I get asked a lot. My first piece of advice is be in two or three networks. Integrate them into your diary one at a time, until they are a part of your business week. Don’t think of networking as an additional task, but rather reframe it for what it is. Networking is sales and marketing, so make sure it’s front and centre of your sales and marketing strategy.
The networks you might choose needs to be different types, as different networks will bring different value to you depending on where you are with your mindset, your journey, your career, or your business.
As a starting point, I always point business owners or ambitious career professionals to look at at their local chambers. Depending on the business, I will then suggest looking at investing in joining a referral network. A sector appropriate association, e.g. for accountants or solicitors might be necessary too, as would a professional development group, e.g. speaker’s association – it all depends on the goals you are setting out to accomplish in the year.
4. The Art of Conversation
The notion of small talk is something that sets off alarm bells and panic in many people, and yet we use small talk every day, all of the time. So more accurately, it’s small talk with people we don’t know that scares us.
If you are going to a networking event or meeting, plan some conversation topics ahead of time and have a few ideas in your back pocket. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- What books are you reading at the moment?
- What’s going on in the news? Invest a bit of time to be up to date with current affairs.
- Seasonal conversation is an easy one: Have you got any holidays planned?
- How did you get started in your business? How is it going? What are the future plans for the business?
- Where else do you network?
Small talk is the art of finding common ground and areas of interest with another person.
If you are interested in getting to know them, the conversation will flow and one question posed with genuine interest, could be the start of a beautiful new friendship or business relationship!
5. Invest the Time to do 1-2-1s
Take the time to get to know your fellow network members. I work off the concept of the ‘power of one’. What I mean by this is aim to do a 1-2-1 each week with at least one new member. If you accomplish this, then you will steadily and consistently build up your network.
Imagine, if you do just 1 meeting per week, that’s 52 new contacts you have made to widen your network.
What is a 1-2-1? It’s where you schedule time to get to know a fellow member or networker. You organise to spend time getting to know one another. Many times this can be purely business focussed, but personally, I like to get ‘behind’ the person and discover their why, their purpose, their values – it’s important to know how you align with this person, before you might recommend them on to another business owner.
In real life, a 1-2-1 can be over a coffee. These days it tends to be on Zoom, but if you are close to the person, don’t discount ‘netwalking’, i.e. getting out for a ‘walk and talk’. It is important to see the person, as you need to be able to pick up as many non-verbal cues as possible to help you get a sense of the person.
As you get closer and get to know people, keeping up the contact and nurturing the relationships will be combined with use of social media, emails, and of course, good old fashioned telephone calls.
You can read more about 1-2-1s here.
6. Get Social
I often hear people saying that they are on social media or have launched a new channel, be it instagram or YouTube and there is an ask of the network to start following the company/person or business on their respective channels. But do you know what happens? Well, honestly very little. Most people open email and get straight back to the ‘day job’ or whatever task they were working on.
I would urge you to take a few minutes after your networking meetings to ensure that you are following people on their channels. An easy way to do this is to go to the company website, as the social channels are usually all linked there, so it’s quicker to find the handles (@xxx), as let’s face it – they aren’t always streamlined or intuitive.
Spend time following your fellow networkers. If you are in multiple networks, spend time each week to follow people and their businesses. The likelihood is that they’ll follow you back, so it’s a win for you too.
The second win is now you can actively follow, like, share and listen to what is going on with these businesses. It’ll help you in conversation, with small talk, showing interest and also give you content for those all important 1-2-1s that I mentioned a few months back.
7. Learn to Give
A key trait of a great networker is someone who has learned to give and who gives freely. It’s important to learn to help others without an expectation of receiving in return.
They say that givers gain and this is based on the law of reciprocity. Each time we give to someone else or we help another person, in life, for personal reasons or in business, we generate goodwill and develop our social capital.
Have you ever been asked to promote something, connect someone, or help somebody and you felt used? You felt like this because the person was using you and your contacts, without having built up a relationship with you.
Helping others can come in so many different forms: a contact, a connection, a piece of advice, an interesting article shared, interest in doing 1-2-1s and connecting authentically, invites to other networks to visits, sharing a book recommendation, referring business (the list goes on)…
You never know how or when you will be able to help another person. But you also won’t know how to do so until you’ve done the all important 1-2-1s and got to know them!
I share more ideas on how to give when you’ve started networking here.
Ca. 50% of Irish people use the popular professional social networking platform, Linkedin. Set a quarterly reminder in your diary to review your profile and ensure it’s up to date. It’s an opportunity for you to reflect on your achievements and ensure that you are showcasing yourself in the best light. Here are a few tips to get your started:
- Always use a professional photo – you’ll be 14 times more likely to be found. It also builds trust.
- Write your profile in the first person – what do you want people to know about you? Use keywords that you want to be found for to help the SEO.
- Personalise your URL (Go to ‘Me’, View Profile, Edit Public Profile & URL). Get rid of any numbers!
- Make sure all sections that are relevant to your profile are completed. You can turn sections on and off as you evolve.
- Give and ask for recommendations – this helps social proof you and your work.
- Post content that showcases you as a credible and trusted source. Be the subject matter expert in your area.
9. Invest in Your Personal Brand
Are You Visible?
Visibility is everything when it comes to career and business success. I’d like you to take some time to do a little audit of how visible you really are.
Do this when you have time to think and space to ponder. Get a pen and paper. Ready?
- Who knows you?
- Who knows what you know?
- Now…who needs to know you and what you know, in order for you to achieve your goals in life and business?
Think laterally about this…internal and external stakeholders. Where do these people network? Are you networking in the right places to meet people who can help you in your career or in your business?
Next…have you got a plan, a strategy for how you are going to build the RIGHT network and how you are going to nurture your network? Networking has to be intentional.
Some ideas & examples might be – this will be specific to your business and your goals. Think about internal and external stakeholders:
- your team
- management team
- referral partners
10. Introverts – Protect Your Asset
Your most important asset in business is YOU. And the best way to protect yourself is to ensure you get enough sleep. Networking, while essential and enjoyable, can also be tiring and draining, particularly if you are an introvert.
If you know you are going to a networking meeting, whether it’s online or in person, ensure you have had a good night’s sleep. This will ensure that you have energy to network and remain engaged. If you arrive tired, you’ll be easily distracted, you’ll find it hard to listen and concentrate…you simply won’t bring the best of you to the table.
Don’t plan meetings in advance of your networking. Try to keep some time for yourself. And don’t plan meetings for straight after the networking meetings or events, as you’ll need time to process, reflect and charge your batteries.
11. Get Curious – Ban Assumptions
When you approach networking with an open mindset, with a view to getting to know people, it makes the process not only more interesting, but more enjoyable. I just love getting to know people, finding out about their journey, their business, their why and their purpose. Because it’s only with this information can I get to know, like and trust the person.
But what I find and hear so often, is that people meet others at networking meetings and events, stop at the name of the company or the person’s title and make a snap decision as to whether they want to spend time getting to know the person or not. There is an automatic assumption of ‘I don’t need that service, so I don’t need to know that person’. These assumptions do a disservice to both parties.
No person is defined by a title or by the role and job they hold today. But rather they are the culmination of a vast array of experiences, ideas and connections…networking should be about uncovering this and going on a voyage of discovery.
You can also subscribe to my networking podcast for tips, ideas and guidance.