What type of networker are you? Do you love going to networking events and work the room like a bull in a China shop or are you the type of person that would rather hide yourself away in a dark cupboard than mix with a room of potential strangers?

If I were to answer that question honestly, then I’m somewhere in the middle, I’m not a novice and I’m not an expert, I’m an intermediate!

I’m not an overly confident networker, even after spending 17 years in sales, but I don’t shy away from it either. I’m also guilty of making an immediate beeline for someone I know and recognise rather than approaching new people and I also much prefer smaller networking events and find larger events a little intimidating, a preference that lead to me launching the EWL Club a couple of months back so maybe not such a bad thing.

In view of my networking style it was great when I visited the Business Show and Marketing Week Live this month to get to listen to two great seminars by the Amazing If founders Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper and Stefan Thomas, author of ‘Business Networking for Dummies’, who each gave some fantastic insight and tips that I wanted to share with you.

Nobody works in isolation! As I’ve just started working freelance this was great to hear from Helen and Sarah during their seminar. They continued this with “A great network can help you be a better version of you” and “Networking can help to increase your value and be a more powerful person”.

Sarah and Helen also made a very important point that it’s vital to understand what you can give back to your network not just take away, you’re much more powerful if you also think about what you can give. How can I help this person and how can they help me?

You should find a way of networking that’s authentic to you, and build a network that is relevant to you and where you want to get to. Work out what you enjoy and the natural strengths you possess that you can offer.

A good network is a diverse network and everyone has something of value. Consider having a few people in your network that could act as mentors and will challenge and question you, are different to you and can look at things from a different aspect. Helen and Sarah also suggested getting members of your network to audit you, we all have our Linkedin and Twitter profiles but are we really aware of how we’re coming across to other people online?

Stefan Thomas kicked off his seminar with the statement “Every big opportunity I’ve had has come from a little conversation”, a big statement.

There’s a few of us I’m sure that have been to that annual industry event and are one of the ones that are sat in the hotel bar with a select few long after most have retired to bed? That apparently is one of the moments when the magic happens. You’re much less likely to be chatting purely about business and more likely to be having a relaxed and fun conversation, your barriers are down and you’re getting to know each other better, you’re building a great connection, and you’ll have something in common in regards to the sore heads you’ll be sharing in the morning.

I’m not saying that everyone should be heading to the hotel bar after their next event and staying up until the early hours drinking and chatting, but perhaps have conversations that are much less focused on business and more focused on finding a commonality and building a connection. Don’t just go networking broadcasting to people, scratch the surface a little and get to know them first.

As Stefan said there are so many opportunities for us to be having the small conversations!

What I really liked from Stefan’s seminar was when he explained about how you can get better at presenting yourself at networking events and that actually it’s what you do after the networking event that’s most important.

He started with three things: You don’t have to be a super presenter to go networking! You don’t have to be super confident! You can be ok!

This will also help you if you attend networking events where you have to give an introduction. Think about what you want to say and prepare. Write notes, also try recording your introduction and then listen back to see how it sounds, if you don’t like it change it! A bit of a speaker tip from Stefan here, remember if you do have notes that you speak differently to how you write so use your recording to help you adjust. Also recording and listening back helps you remember what you’re going to say

And always remember if you’re asked to speak for 60 seconds don’t go on for 60 minutes!

Also a great one to remember is when you’re doing your pitch or speaking to someone at an event think about the so what? This is something that’s coming up more and more in business nowadays, think about the benefits of what you offer over and above the features, the why rather than the what? As Dale Carnegie writes in how to win friends and influence people “Get on to the other persons turf and talk on their terms”.

Something I’ve learnt from my years in sales is that you should think about the next step, think about selling people the opportunity to spend more time with you to find out more. If you’re chatting to someone new keep it brief and suggest meeting up for coffee or lunch to have a more in-depth conversation at a later date, as Stefan put it “think about what you can say to people to give them value if they have another conversation with you”.

Here’s one the marketers will like, have a call to action. Tell people if they want to find out more they should follow you on twitter, read your blog, visit your website, always tell people what to do next.

Make people feel excited about meeting you. If your pitch and approach isn’t working change it and go to the next event with something different, and always follow up – in this digital age with the rise of social media it is still perfectly acceptable to pick up the phone and call someone you met!

Finally and one very important point don’t ever judge or underestimate people you meet, you never know who they used to be, you never know who they’re connected to and you never know who they may become!

What are my top tips for networking?

  • Think about the value exchange
  • Be active and volunteer your time to make something happen
  • Think about your online profiles and ask someone to audit you
  • Get to know your connections better, their likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests
  • Think less about the big win and concentrate on the smaller conversations
  • Sell the opportunity to spend more time with you
  • Think about your call to action
  • Follow up
  • Smile and enjoy it!

I’ll leave you with a great quote from the ladies at Amazing If:

“Networking is just people helping people” – Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper

Until next time #Eventprofs…