It appears there are 2 types of people: Those who like to network and those who dread it. For me, networking is a fun time. I get to meet interesting people and learn something new. If I’m lucky, I’ve made a connection with someone who can provide me with some guidance or a second opinion in the future. As networking is more about relationships these days, it’s surely a give and take and I’m more than happy to share my knowledge.
My own network has helped me on various occasions dealing with business issues, acting like an external counsellor and providing guidance on my topics. As there are different elements to my role, I like to have a diverse network. My industry-specific group meets on a regular basis and we update each other on general trends, of course, without revealing company secrets.
How do you create or expand your own network?
- What’s your goal? Are you looking to learn about industry specifics or meet other professionals? Define what you need when researching the various networking events in your city.
- How much will it cost? How much are you (or your company) willing to pay for a networking event? Some networking groups are open only to fee-paying members while others have an event sponsor.
- What do you get? A presentation about an industry-specific topic or general topics impacting your company (e.g. changes in the employment law)? A workshop teaching you new or advanced skills (e.g. conducting performance reviews)? Do you prefer to meet other business folks in an informal setting while snacking on a few nipples?
- Who attends and who presents? A list of previous attendees may not be given out for data privacy reason, however, ask the host for a general overview of the attendees. Finding out the names of the companies present as well as the job titles can give you a better idea if this group meets your needs.
- What’s the verdict? Before you’re committing to regular meetings for a closed group, seek referrals and ask if you can attend as a guest.
- When are the meetings? Check the times of the networking meetings you’d like to attend. Do they interfere with your work or other arrangements? Don’t overbook yourself.
- What will you wear? Most of the networking events will have a smart casual dress code.
- How will you start the conversation? It’s convenient if a business partner can introduce you to others. Most of the times, you’ll be making the first step though. If you’re joining a group at a table, look at something striking of the other person and complement them (“That’s a gorgeous colour of your blouse/purse/shoes.”)
- How will you get to know the other person? There’s a debate whether we’re still networking or already relationship building. While their company and job title may be what started the conversation, a genuine interest in the other person is what helps to get to know them. Listen to what they have to say. If you don’t understand them, ask them to clarify.
- What can you give to them? Networks can help you solve a problem or provide you with a different perspective. They can teach you new insights and also provide you with valuable feedback. Share your knowledge and contribute to the conversation.
- What about your business cards? In the past, business cards were handed to everyone. It’s not about collecting them like stamps. These days, networkers are a lot more strategic about who’s getting their contact information.
- When will you follow up? A quick email about your meeting, referring to your conversation, answering their question in more detail or providing them with information, should be sent in a timely manner. This is not 3 ½ weeks after the event.
What’s your experience with networking events? How do you approach them and the other attendees? I’m curious what your take is. So please leave your comment below. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Until next time,