Nailing networking

2014-09-12 00:00

IN the 21st century, connections are a powerful currency, and the ability to establish a network of supportive peers is key to maximising one’s potential.

Many people are apprehensive about attending networking events, and the pressure to make new contacts can be quite overwhelming. The fear of networking generally stems from a fear of rejection, with the following thoughts going through our minds:

• I don’t know anyone in the room;

• I might make a complete fool of myself;

• I may appear like a greasy sales agent wanting to sell my product; and

• what if the person does not want to talk to me?

Having facilitated networking events and leadership seminars for over 2 000 people over the past five years, I have observed how networking trends have evolved from transactional to relational.

Whether you are selling an idea or a product, or you just want to raise the level of exposure, it’s all about how you engage, and not just about what and who you know. I’d like to share some tips on how to be a savvy networker.

• Be genuine and authentic. The best networkers really want to help the other person. It’s not a manipulative thing. You will get what you want in life by helping enough other people get what they want. Make real connections and don’t be fake.

• Those who give, get. The first time you meet people you wish to connect with, ask them questions and spend more time listening than speaking. Find a way to help them, whether from a personal or business perspective. They will remember your kindness and return the favour.

• Look for smaller groups. If you enter a room and you do not know anyone there, remember there are others who feel the same way as you. Grab a drink and look for other people who are alone or in small groups, and then join in.

• Personal value/brand proposition. What do you say when you meet someone? Your 30-second elevator speech is key. Your CV provides context in terms of your experience and qualifications, but what are you known for? How have you added value to the people around you? When you introduce yourself, share your name and position/company, but add something that will make the person smile and want to ask more questions.

You don’t need to give your full CV. Provide a simple introduction like: “I am Lucy Smith. I’m a doctor and I love travelling in Africa and working with the local people.” Add something that you are passionate about, and chances are there will be questions about it.

• Let your inner beauty shine. I often get asked whether the way you look counts in terms of success. The truth is that those who have inner contentment and confidence and are able to project them are able to connect better. It’s more about your sense of self-worth and dressing appropriately that matters, rather than your external appearance. Rather dress up than dress down.

• Quality over quantity. You will not be able to connect with everyone you meet. It’s okay. Spend time talking to one or two people, rather than trying to collect multiple business cards.

• Social media. While having myriad friends on Facebook is great from a social perspective and can help you in business, what’s equally important is to ask yourself who will answer your call for help in the middle of the night? Who would you trust to assist you in a business or personal crisis? Invest time in creating meaningful connections.

• Nobody is a nobody. Don’t only focus on creating connections with people above you. Great networkers know that real value is gained by creating relationships with people above you, below you and beside you. We can learn from people from all walks of life. Do not rush to try to talk to the person you think is most important in the room, as you may miss the chance to connect with someone else who could have added greater value.

• Deliver on your promises. You should be known for your reliability and delivery.

• Lastly, have fun. The impression you make on people is the impression they will have of you and your business, so make it good and make it memorable.

Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, says: “The richest people in the world look for and build networks — everyone else looks for work.”

Remember, you will rise by lifting others. Happy networking.

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