Christmas is coming, there are parties, gatherings and networking events on the horizon so what is your reaction to getting out there and networking? I hear a range of responses from “Aghhh” to “love it!” Typically people are resigned to the belief that networking is something they know they “should” master but they’d really rather they didn’t have to. A bit like a visit to the dentist where you know you have to suffer an injection to avoid future pain (made worse by the fact that you have to pay for the pain!)
I love networking but I didn’t always feel this way. Over the years I’ve learned how to get the right mindset and I have developed techniques and a process for making networking effective and fun so that it feels totally (or very nearly) natural.
So what is networking? Forget the “B” words; networking is not about bluff, bluster, bigging it up or any other words starting with B. It is all about having interesting conversations with interesting people. It doesn’t matter who the person is, what they do or where they come from. If I meet someone and we both “hit it off”, are interested in each other and are open and sharing and willing to offer help rather than just take, I know I can network with them.
Myth busting…. is this you? I’ve heard every excuse in the book for avoiding networking. I’m an introvert, I’m shy, I’m not a salesperson, It doesn’t apply to me…. the list is endless. However consider this:
* Some of the most effective networkers are shy and/or introverts.
* Don’t assume networking is easy for extroverts; they have to work on their techniques too.
* The techniques of powerful networking also apply to family events, making friends and dating!
12 tips to sparkle during the festive season:
1. Get in the festive spirit. Imagine you are going to have a successful time. You are an interesting person happy to talk to interesting people. Connecting with two or three people is a successful outcome. Quality over quantity…. this applies equally to the festive “spirit”.
2. Timing. As in all walks of life getting your timing spot on is essential. As a rule, be no more than 10 minutes early, never late for dinner (unless your aim is never to be re-invited) and be wary of appearing “fashionably late”. It depends, of course, on the circumstances but this behaviour can easily be viewed as “drama queen” or “needy”.
3. Prepare. A little preparation goes a long way. Think about a couple of opening lines to start a conversation and keep it simple (overcomplicated scenarios and trying to impress is just too stressful). Open questions always work well e.g. “Where have you had to travel from?”
4. Listen – Listening has to be one of the most powerful skills and the most underused. The best communicators (and networkers) are those who, if you listen, don’t actually say a great deal (but what they say is always worth listening to). Instead, they ask questions and listen; now that’s a conversation starter.
5. Be interested. If you are genuinely interested in a person it will show in what you say, how you say it and also in your gestures and eye contact etc. You will also spot these signals in other people so go ahead and have an interesting conversation.
6. Naughty but fun. For those who love people watching, look out for people who say one thing whilst their body language says the complete opposite. “How lovely to see you” could be said with energy and enthusiasm. But…. where are they looking, over your shoulder?
7. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’m not just talking mince pies…. Seriously though, much is made of learning how to break into conversation with large groups. There are techniques I teach for this but in reality why do you want to? Some groups/people are just plain scary. Now is not the time to put your networking skills to the test. Accept it, some people just don’t want to talk; don’t take it personally.
8. For those who are shy. You are probably apprehensive, that’s OK. Get in the groove and practise some opening lines, breathe and take your time.
9. If you’re an introvert, embrace it. You probably find that being in the company of lots of people is draining so you need to escape. Then escape and don’t apologise!
10. Extroverts. Are you the life and soul of the party? If you enjoy it, go ahead but don’t feel you have to be on “top form” all the time. Find a shy person and get them talking,.
11. I don’t believe they just did that! There is always someone who oversteps the mark. In networking it means people who are only interested in what they can get from you and the conversation is usually a one way street. Be nice, the temptation to deliver a put down may be overwhelming but resist!
12. Tis the season of goodwill - relax and enjoy yourself. If you are considerate of others and are a giver rather than a taker, enjoy making new contacts and friends. If others snub or dismiss you it says more about them than you.
Networking is for life, not just for Christmas!
To find out more about effective networking, contact Denise at The Career Practice. Telephone 07860 479 712.
With over thirty years of experience in mentoring, coaching and executive training, Denise’s track record of achievement includes enabling senior management and entrepreneurs to develop their skills, ensuring a direct impact on their business.