It’s all about who you know

How we can learn to stop worrying and love networking

It can often appear to the untrained eye that networking is like the business equivalent of speed dating, where the same questions are asked until someone answers them in an interesting enough way to merit exchanging contact details. But there is much more to networking, when done well, than amassing business cards and drinking free wine. Below we take a look at the power of networking, and how to make the best of it.

How to find networking opportunities

It goes without saying that attending a networking event of representatives from the food and drink sector will be of little use to even the most talented IT and Engineering networker, so identifying the right event to go to is almost as important as what you do when you get there.

After excluding any immediately irrelevant events, try getting your hands on the guest list of the event or at least find out if there will be any guest speakers present. Failing that, networking events tend to be (at least) annual affairs, so trawling through attendee lists or photographs of events past can also help you to identify if you’re likely to meet the right sort of people there. If there is a healthy amount of attendees from companies whose names you recognise and would want to work at or represent, you’ve probably found the right event.

What to do when you’re there

Smile, handshake, card, repeat? Although a tried and tested formula, you might find that quality serves you better than quantity at a networking event. Working the room is important, but once you’ve identified a shortlist of priority guests, it’s better to ensure that they leave with a memory of you, rather than just a card with your contact details on it.

How and why to follow up

If you have enjoyed a successful networking event, you are likely to have collected numerous business cards and conversations over the course of the evening. The problem, of course, is that everyone else at the event is likely to have done the same. This is why follow-up is so vital, and there are multiple ways to do it.

A follow-up email to those you met, outlining how much you enjoyed meeting them, discussing the (business-focussed) topics that were under discussion, and suggesting that you meet for a coffee soon to discuss them further is a great start, but will only serve you well if the coffee actually occurs, and may result in the connection going slightly cold quickly. Equally, it’s important not to bombard a new connection with endless anecdotes about yourself and the evening you met. Don’t oversell. Gently, gently is a better approach.

Fortunately, LinkedIn provides the perfect tool for a more gentle approach. By adding a new contact on LinkedIn, you will be able to see development in their career, congratulate them on promotions and, if you are both active on the platform, share and comment on each other’s content. By posting regular updates on the channel, you will also ensure that you remind your new connection about yourself. Who you are, and, most importantly, what your area of expertise is.

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