Advice:10 top networking tips

By , published on 1st November 2010

Do you find networking daunting? Most of us find it difficult to approach and talk with complete strangers. Here are 10 tips to help you get networking:

  1. Know what you want – if you go networking with a clear goal, you’ll be more focused. This means you’ll talk to the right people and ask the right questions;
  2. Know what you do – it can be surprisingly difficult to explain what you do. Have a prepared introduction. Be comfortable explaining who you are, what you do, why you’re different and what you’re seeking – in less than a minute;
  3. Volunteer – whatever you join, become active. Having a role gives you good reason to talk to people. Offer to help organise the events you attend.
  4. Ask questions – everybody likes to talk about themselves. Get people talking and then steer the conversation towards your areas of interest. Don’t look bored;
  5. Look the part – what you wear says a lot about you. Try not to dress like everybody else. Invest in the services of a good image consultant – the results can be amazing!
  6. Be memorable – carry business cards and offer them freely. You want people to remember you when they get back to work. Also make sure you wear a name badge;
  7. Shake hands – always greet people with a smile and a firm, but not too tight, handshake. Look them in the eye as you say ‘hello’ – you’ll appear more confident;
  8. Eat first – it’s difficult to talk with your mouth full. Eat before you go and politely nibble rather than load your plate. You’re there to network, not fill your belly;
  9. Move on – don’t spend the entire event with one person. To move on without seeming rude, touch their arm as you make your excuse to leave. Only do this if it feels right to you;
  10. Take notes – take a moment to record what you’ve said, heard or promised to do – otherwise you’ll have forgotten by tomorrow morning.

Business networking clubs

Networking is rather like a bank savings account – you have to make several deposits before you can hope to earn interest and make a withdrawal. There are several business networking clubs you might consider joining. Some are specific to an area or industry, others form part of national and international networks. For example, if you joined the local branch of one of the large breakfast networking organisations you would probably find:

  • up to 50 people who meet on the same morning every week;
  • no direct competitors, as most limit membership to one per business sector;
  • an opportunity to talk every week about what you’re looking for;
  • regular opportunities to talk to the group about what you do;
  • networking training sessions;
  • members committed to introducing each other to new customers.

Online networks provide an almost overwhelming array of people you can network with. Most have a search facility to enable you to identify common interests, and various forums where you can debate pertinent issues.

In some cities you will also find professional networking facilitators. These are individuals or firms who arrange events at which people can meet each other. These are rather like dating agencies in the way that they work, except business is the objective rather than pleasure.

Brad Burton – 4 networking

Brad Burton is something of an extrovert who loves networking. Having tried breakfast networking for himself, he decided to start his own breakfast networking organisation.  One thing he’s always disliked are rules so he set up 4 Networking to be flexible. ‘I wanted to focus on meeting member needs,’ he explains, ‘because satisfied customers means success for us too!’

Members are given a 4 Networking ‘Passport’ and  encouraged to visit other groups as well as support their own. In the first two years 4 Networking grew to more than 200 groups. For you, networking will win you business; for Brad it is his business!

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Robert Ashton

About Robert Ashton

Robert Ashton is an entrepreneur, campaigner and business author with three business books in the top 10 recommended for business on Amazon. He knows how enterprise can liberate, empower and strengthen people and communities. Robert is always focused on the end goal but treads lightly as he goes – that’s why he’s called the barefoot entrepreneur.

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