Guest Blogger Natalie Enn of From A Seed Coaching talks to us about networking and provides us with some strategic coping mechanisms for you or for your team…
The very use of the word networking can conjure up thoughts of unnatural smiles and forced, disjointed conversation with the addition of perceived missed opportunities and post-session, self-rebuke. Most definitely not a pleasant concept! This is the case for so many, especially so for the more introverted and quieter among us.
Like or loathe it, networking provides professionals with extensive opportunities and exposure. Therefore, it really is something that needs to be done right, using an approach that is fitting for our characters and for the setting.
Irrespective of your personality type, I am hoping that the below can provide you with some strategic coping mechanisms, to prevent anxiety beforehand and allow you to enjoy the event, making the connections that will benefit yourself and your business.
Optimise your potential to connect
Effective networking can take place both face-to-face and online. It is indeed possible to build a rapport with an individual within a social network medium; this can be done by first conversing on public pages and then transitioning to direct messaging, for more direct conversations. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all great for doing this.
Prior connection using social media also provides you with a starting point for conversation. Having laid the groundwork beforehand you can almost pick up from where you left off online.
Connect with the organiser/host, prior to the event
The event host will usually be aware of the specific details of those attending (profession, industry etc). By connecting with the host beforehand with a request for an introduction to your targeted clientelle, this can, in part assist you with making direct contact and reducing the need to ‘work’ the room quite so thoroughly.
Contact with the host also provides you with a familiar person to connect with initially.
Allocate some time for quiet preparation
Allow yourself time to prepare for the event. During this time, consider best-case scenarios; what do you want out of this event and how will you feel when this is achieved?
If you’re pushed for time, this could even be 10 minutes prior to the event.
Give some thought to how you wish to be perceived and what information you wish to share to add value when conversing. What connections you have or what knowledge about technological development/industry changes, that could be useful to someone?
Remember, it is possible to be both one of the quietest and the most valuable persons in the room.
Whichever means of transport you intend use, try to ensure that you are one of the first to arrive, if not the first person in the room.
Think of the networking space as your territory and the invitees somewhat your guests who would benefit by an acknowledging smile upon entry to the event. I always endeavour to do this to the first 10 people who walk into the room. This also opens up space for connection later on.
By arriving early, you negate the anxiety of entering into a packed room of already conversing people. In addition it allows you to leave at a reasonable time, having given yourself enough opportunity to speak with the intended.
During the session
Make a decision to enjoy the evening. When networking, allow yourself the space to quietly look around the room once in a while and make eye contact. When this happens, make a mental note to transition to that person at some point during the event.
Cliché as it sounds, during these sessions, people are also constantly looking around the room for friendly-looking individuals to approach and connect with. A smile is invaluable, and not one of those terrified looking, fixed grins that communicates the fear of a potential approach. People are generally perceptive and nervous energy is not a compelling trait. As far as is humanly possible, allow yourself to relax.
Small Talk – necessary but unpleasant for some
Many individuals with quieter characters, introverts in particular, prefer to get straight to the core; the ‘nitty gritty’, as opposed to dancing around the peripheral subject matter. Small-talk is of course, a requirement when networking.
It doesn’t all have to be about business business and more business however. As much as people will want to know about what you do and how this can add value to them, they will also be glad for a dry-witted comment, a joke or the raising of subject matter that can help to reduce what can be a tense atmosphere.
During conversation, do not feel as though you are responsible for filling the silent pauses, which may occur. You will connect with some people immediately, with others it will take a little time and with others it will not happen at all. This is normal. It happens. C’est La Vie.
If you feel that a conversation is coming to a natural end, make your excuses, requesting a business card before you move on. Returning to the room presents the perfect opportunity to scan the room for other individuals that you have previously exchanged smiles with and seek out others.
I personally avoid engaging with groups who have built a rapport and are standing in a tight-knit circle. I recall, with an embarrassment that has stayed with me, during my first networking session trying to enter into a tightly-formed group, whose rapport had been built and were laughing mid-joke. Suffice to say I most definitely resembled a child standing on tip-toes, unsuccessfully trying to peer over the counter top. An unfortunate experience.
It only takes one good connection.
Avoid putting pressure on yourself to connect with each and every individual within the room. The reality is, if you aren’t drawn to speak with someone during the networking session, a potential business relationship may be less than enjoyable also.
If you are unable to speak with a person you intended to, again, the host may be able to assist with the exchange of contact details, allowing for connection at a later date.
Lastly as the saying goes, people buy people and having tips and items in your toolkit when it comes to networking, can only serve to enhance your experience and help you to create opportunities.
Next, it’s all about the follow-up….
About Natalie Enn
The Founder of From A Seed coaching, Natalie Enn coaches professional women to increase their confidence and excel at leading.
Natalie has had a long-standing and successful career working within senior Human Resources in strategic people management and Employment Law advisory roles, prior to successfully transitioning to career coaching. Natalie’s work attracts all character types and she has made reference to helping people, especially women, with quieter characters to use their skills of observation, discernment and reflection as valuable and advantageous tools within their places of work.
Alongside the above, Natalie undertakes public speaking and releases blogs regularly with regards to excelling in the workplace; accessible at www.fromaseed.co.uk
Natalie is contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org