Business networking is considered by many to be a necessary evil. Many fear it, others just feel like it’s a great deal of effort. To be effective at networking, you have to understand the importance creating lasting connections will have on your professional life, just like it does in your personal life.
Why Is Networking Important in Business?
Growing your “network” is important because it will increase your reach…the length of how far you are connected through your industry. The more people you know, and who know you, the more in-roads you can make to finding decision makers that can impact your success.
Recently, I’ve been coaching several executives on the importance of networking. I boiled it down to three essential tips for networking effectively:
Networking is Part of Your Job, Not a Burden
Generally, when a client explains they have an important networking event their reaction is “Ugh!!!
I get it…it’s like going to your first high school dance. There is the initial awkwardness, you don’t exactly know where to go or what to do when you get there. The people look like they have it handled without you.
Make sure that networking events are on your schedule. Back up two days from each networking event and schedule time to research the event, know who’s attending, determine what you most want to achieve from the event.
Ignore the Voice in Your Head
The mind often only wants to survive. You will hear it give you advice that only gets you through the event. Things like, “Go over there where there’s no one and check your phone. You’ll look busy so no one knows you don’t want to be here.” Or, “There’s no one here you really need to meet.” Sound familiar?
Therefore, thank your mind for its perspective and then turn the volume down on it! Realize EVERYONE there feels similarly to you.
Before the networking event, design several open-ended questions you can ask of people at the conference to learn about what they do and if you and they can be useful to one another. Keep your conversation ambiguous, don’t hyper control it, just notice where it goes.
Be Interested, Then Be Interesting
Networking is a two way street. But to start, make it one way. Be interested in other people’s goals and challenges. Find out what issues they are facing in their job; what keeps them up at night. Then be interesting with your goals and challenges. See if you share some commonalities that will foster the beginning of your relationship. Bring others into your conversation and create your own mini-group that is now connected. And make sure you find out how to stay in touch, be it e-mail, phone, social media or the next networking event.
Once you’ve practiced the networking tips, it will get easier. And you will build a strong network of people with related goals, interests, etc. In fact, you might even look forward to the next networking function!
So fear not, the water is fine, just jump in!