A few months ago I attended a networking event where someone walked up to me, and the first thing they did was give me a business card, spoke barely a few words and walked away, and I noticed they did the same with others, distributing their business card. I was at another networking and business event, where someone brings out a BIG bundle of business cards to give me one, and this left me speechless, but with a strong desire to revisit the art of networking.

Considering the amount of information out there on effective networking, one could be forgiven for assuming the art of networking would be common knowledge. The biggest mistake that unfortunately is still happening is when people see networking as an opportunity to ‘sell’, ‘promote’ or ‘get’ as much possible to their benefit.

Networking can be described as the process of interacting or engaging in communication with others for mutual assistance or support. Note the word ‘mutual’? When networking is done properly, its benefits can be endless, and includes making business contacts, establishing new friendships or relationships, or seeking advice and information.

Networking is not a race to distribute as many business cards or get as many cards as possible. Yes networking is effective for building your professional career or business, and I can testify to having great results from networking, but this happened when I was being present in the moment, being authentic, and interested in the other person. 

From my own experience, trainings attended and reading done, one key point that cannot be overemphasised is that ‘Networking is about building Relationships’. Only in getting to know someone and vice versa can a need be met effectively. We need to change our mindset from focusing on not just what we can get, but to also what we can give. The law of nature and reciprocity has proven that in giving we are bound to receive. 

How to Network Effectively

  1. Prepare beforehand by having a positive attitude and think of what you would like to achieve from attending i.e. meet two new people today. However, keep an open mind at the event, which could open you to receiving more than you expected.
  2. Have your elevator pitch/speech ready on how to introduce yourself effectively; short, to the point and effective.
  3. If you feel lost, nervous or struggle to join a group that is already in conversation, find someone on their own and introduce yourself.
  4. Develop the art of small talk; start a topic in relation to the event you are presently at, a related current affairs topic or admire something about the person you want to start the conversation with. Some simple conversation starters include ‘great event…’, ‘Is this your first time here…’
  5. Listen and focus your attention on who you are talking with, imagine how you would feel if you were talking with someone and they are constantly looking around or at their cell phone.
  6. Use open-ended questions that will help keep the conversation flowing, as opposed to closed-ended questions that solicit a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  7. When you receive a business card. Write a note on it to help jog your memory for the next time you look at the card.
  8. Make sure you follow up after events; it could be call to say hello or how well you enjoyed meeting them. This helps to create a connection that you can work towards building.
  9. Networking does not start and end with formal events, you can also network effectively at social events and online on social media.

 

We are constantly faced with opportunities to network in the many facets of our lives, and what you do with your opportunity has the capability to positively and significantly impact your life or not. 

Share some of your networking stories or tips with us below. What do you think of Networking?

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Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta

Author, Inspirational Speaker, Change Consultant, and John Maxwell Leadership Coach & Teacher at OliveBlue Inc

I work with entrepreneurs, leaders and organisations to transition through change, drive results and achieve their goals. Author of the book “The Change You Want! Change Your Mindset, and Change Your Life”, as well as two other guide and workbooks on business and professional development.

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