I’m not going to lie. I used to hate networking, I mean really hate it. Just the thought of being in an environment full of strangers, all being pushy with their own agendas and different approaches, would make me feel sick in the pit of my stomach! I would pretty much do anything to avoid this scenario. That was until a dear old colleague of mine pointed out to me, that I successfully networked every single day.
Not in the way I feared as I so eloquently(!!) describe above, but in a very different way. This colleague explained to me that they saw me chatting, making introductions and connections in the office and that was fantastic networking. I just hadn’t ever thought of it that way.
Fast-forward several years. Soon after I set up blueumbrella, I found myself in the exact position which used to make me so anxious, in a room, full of strangers, feeling a little intimidated. But this time it was different. I remembered what my colleague had said to me, took a deep breath, smiled and dived right in. That evening I made some of the best connections I have ever had, two of whom are still intimately involved in my business to this day.
That conversation all those years ago, made such a difference to me – and my business. In fact, if I hadn’t had it, I doubt I would be in my current position! Networking now plays an integral part in blueumbrella and its success, be it in a formal situation or a chat with someone at yoga, making connections can open a world of possibilities.
However, it did take me some time to actually get good at ‘professional’ networking. It’s not something I ever had the opportunity to train to do, so my development was more trial and error! Through this process I did manage to gather a few top tips which I use to help me out:
- Don't wait around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to approach you. This always made me feel like I was on the ‘back foot’. Be positive, get the conversation started, ask a simple question such as, “May I join you" or "What brings you to this event?"
- It may sound terribly cheesy, but don’t forget to smile. Not only does it help relax you, it puts others at ease too. Always think ‘warmth, curiosity and generosity’.
- Focus on others. People always like talking about themselves, and you’ll quickly learn what’s important to them.
- Don’t forget to follow up any connections you make, even a simple ‘nice to have met you’ email may lead to new opportunities.
These may not work for you, but I find them invaluable. As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have any wise words or thoughts on how to network better.