As Covid restrictions finally ease we are seeing the return on in person and face-to-face events. After two years of communicating digitally and virtually, it’s time to refresh our approach to networking with people in the same physical space. So the latest short video in the series is an introduction to networking skills.
(Video script – Introduction to networking skills)
Hi – I’m Kim Tasso.
As the Covid restrictions ease, things are starting to open up again. And our first in person networking events are appearing in our calendars. So it seemed a good time to share some tips on effective networking. However, many of the tips still apply to online or digital networking.
At my networking training sessions I provide anything from an hour to half a day of ideas to improve the effectiveness of your networking. But this is a short video (10 minutes) so I have focused on some key messages – but there are plenty of resources with additional information if you’re interested.
To make it memorable there are five areas – Plan, Prepare, Perform, Produce, Persist – Lots of Ps!
Remember the word WORK in included in the word networking. And that work starts before you even get to the event. You need to do some planning if your networking is to be effective.
What is your reason for networking?
- It may be to meet particular people – who you already know and reconnect with or it may be to make first contact with people with whom you want to build a relationship. Those you have targeted.
- It may be to increase your network – to expand your horizons and add some new and different people to your world – referrers and influencers or key people in your industry. Having a strong network of good connections is like a career currency.
- It may be to learn stuff – networking is a great place to find out what’s going on in the market, and what your competitors are up to and what’s bothering your clients. The property sector is particularly good at sharing information through networking.
- It may to wave the flag for your firm – to raise your profile. To ensure that you and your firm are represented and have a presence within a particular community.
Ideally, networking will be an integral part of your overall marketing and business development plan – so you know who you want to meet and why and where you might meet them. And what your key messages might be when you do. Your messages or personal brand need to be reflected in your web biography and on your social media profiles and any content you have shared. And that will take some planning.
Whatever your reasons for networking it will help if you set some objectives – both long term and short term – then you will be able to track progress and assess your effectiveness at networking
Networking isn’t magic. It’s rare that it generates results overnight. So manage your expectations – you have to commit time and energy to networking consistently for it to be effective.
If you are going to give up your valuable time to attend a networking event then it seems only right that you should invest time to prepare so that you are as effective as possible
Do some research before an event – Who is the organiser? What’s the occasion? Who will attend? Who might you know? Social media is really useful for finding out about attendees in advance. And perhaps even pre-arranging to meet and chat.
And what are they likely to be talking about? What’s going on in their business and market? What’s going on in yours? What are the business news headlines of the day? Make sure you are aware of commercial and industry trends and issues.
Prepare how will you introduce yourself. There’s guidance on the Shrek model and 3×3 matrix, but tailor your introduction to the type of event and people you meet. Personal introductions: BrandMe the power of 3 in networking (kimtasso.com)
And can you be a great Ambassador for your firm? What are the news headlines in your firm? What key developments have been reported in the media – and on your web site and social media channels?
You also need to prepare yourself mentally – If you think positively, this will be conveyed in your non-verbal communication. Similarly, if you think negatively then this too will appear in your Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) and people will avoid you. Here’s a short video explainer on body language.
Once you arrive you’ll need to move gracefully around the room – like a social butterfly. Some people find it easier to arrive early to chat to the other early arrivals – some like to arrive later and connect with the hardened, stay-to-the-end networkers.
Don’t feel you have to network alone – take a colleague – Hunt in a pack. And with someone who is a different personality to you. There’s guidance on reading the NVC of people to help you work out their personality so you can adapt accordingly. With a colleague by your side, you increase the chances of the chemistry working – and it takes the pressure off you a bit.
That first impression forms very quickly – so ensure you exude confidence and warmth. Soft skills – Boost your self-confidence and confidence (Video) (kimtasso.com) Perhaps rehearse some opening statements or questions that feel natural to you.
You have to form a connection quickly when you meet someone so use questions to explore their views and listen intently to their answers. Curiosity is a superpower – What is curiosity and why is it important in business relationships? (Video) (kimtasso.com). Ask further questions to keep the conversation flowing but make sure you balance it with information about yourself otherwise you’ll be like the Spanish Inquisition!
NVC is really important – how you say things being more important than what you say. So be positive and enthusiastic and animated. And maintain eye contact to show they have your attention – nothing worse than when someone can see you scanning the room over their shoulder!
However, remember NVC is culturally dependent so if you are networking in an international environment you will need to understand the differences to avoid misinterpretation. And just because people look alike doesn’t mean they are the same – I remember the challenges of my Britishness in an American environment (UK and USA purses).
Often you will start with informal, social comments but if you get into a business conversation try to convey the two or three things you want them to remember about you. Stories are remembered better than facts and figures so prepare some before you go. See Power of three – Writing and presentation basics (Video) (kimtasso.com) and Video – The art of storytelling – Kim Tasso explains and demonstrates
And remember in that short interaction lasting just a few minutes – you have a lot to do. You need to form some sort of (emotional) connection, have a good chat and identify a reason to reconnect after the event. It’s the entire sales process condensed! Your job – if you like is to be a bit of a detective – to identify what they might need and how you might take the relationship forward. This DIAGRAM shows all you need to achieve in each conversation.
Moving between groups often causes anxiety – or “working the room” as some call it. You can always take the person you are talking to with you to join other people. Note that eyebrow flashes – even monkeys do this – are a way to signal recognition and identify where people are happy for you to join them.
Another tactic is to seek out groups of three people who are not standing too close to each – a loose three. It’s easier to break into their conversation – and form two couples rather than leaving someone out in the cold.
(Sheepdog) One of my favourite tactics is what I call the Sheep Dog – going around the edges of the room and rounding up those who are on their own. They’ll be glad you “rescued” them from their solitary confinement!
During your networking interactions you need to produce a (favourable) impression in the people you meet. And form a connection. And of course, the interaction needs to be enjoyable and useful.
You need to introduce yourself and talk in a way that leaves people with a memory of you – how are you different – and perhaps 2-3 key topics that will help them to know when to contact you in future when appropriate.
There’s a saying about Giver’s Gain – become known as someone who is generous with their ideas and time and connections. Evoke the reciprocity effect by giving first and build your favour bank.
Following up is easier if you agree that you will do this during the interaction at the networking event – and how. Requesting a meeting might be too high a commitment when you’ve just met someone so see if you can identify something less onerous – like sending some information or introducing them to a colleague.
As soon as you can find time to make some notes about who you met and what and how you agreed to follow up.
There’s some ideas on reaching out and following up Practical sales tips: Reach out and Follow up (kimtasso.com)
PERSIST (Social Media icons)
Immediately after the event, enter the person’s details into your contact system or CRM or on social media – but remember GDPR rules! You might also grade or prioritise them – are they high priority to pursue or can you rely on your firm’s emails and newsletter systems to maintain contact.
And check to see if you need to alert anyone else in the firm to your new contacts – internal communication and co-ordination is important.
Follow their social media accounts and like and share their posts where relevant.
Use social media posts and share information regularly so that you stay on their radar.
Remember in business-to-business (B2B) situations if can take from 5 to 10 contacts before you convert a contact into a client – and most people give up after 3! So be persistent and nurture your contacts.
For further help (Book copies) There are two fab books I recommend – One where the author is a former accountant from Manchester (Will Kintish) and the other – also from Manchester – is a former barrister and stand up comic.
So. Happy Networking. Thank you for watching and listening.
Related networking posts
(After publishing the video, I noticed a typo in one of the captions – see if you can spot it!)