Dropping my daughter off at her first day of senior school today, I observed what was, in effect, a huge networking event. 95 slightly anxious eleven year olds out to create a good first impression and make connections. I rather wished I’d had the foresight to give Lucy my top three tips for successful networking:
1. Listen. Don’t be too keen to tell people about yourself or your business/product. A networking event is not an opportunity to trot out your new elevator pitch. It’s a chance to forge the beginnings of a relationship. Listening (and asking questions) is one of your most powerful communication tools.
2. Don’t fret about whether or not you’re ‘interesting’. This is the anxiety most often voiced in relation to networking. Far better to be ‘interested’ in something. We all have a topic which floats our boat – be it shells, travel, movies, football, art, theatre. Talking enthusiastically about something which excites us is in itself engaging (careful not to overdo it though), and it may be that you discover a common interest or at the very least, an appreciation of each other’s hobbies/pastimes.
3. Don’t try too hard. Relationships are like fires: they grow from small sparks. Let them breath and they will flourish. Smother them and they will die.
So, as we kick off the flip flops and head for the playground or the boardroom, let’s approach our next ‘networking’ event with a new attitude. And remember to label everything!