An April 2017 study from Cornell University found that requests made in person were 34 times more successful than those made over email so if you’re looking to make new connections it makes sense to invest time and effort in networking.
Getting into a room of industry peers and colleagues makes sense for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are the benefits of a face to face approach, it’s easier to build rapport and instantly feels more intimate, it’s likely you won’t feel nearly as uncomfortable asking for an introduction or for some advice and you’re also less likely to experience miscommunication.
After all, it’s widely agreed that the majority of communication is non-verbal, made up of body language and tone of voice. It’s easy to misconstrue tone and intention over e-mail or LinkedIn but there’s none of this with face to face contact which means it’s much more efficient for everyone involved.
The benefits of networking are obvious but if you’re new to the interim market and the responsibility of business development, the prospect can be daunting. Here we provide five tips to get the most from your networking experience
Don’t be a salesperson
Yes, technically you are now in the business of ‘selling yourself’, however, it’s easy to be too conscious of this and come across as overbearing – it’s bad form to start pitching the minute you walk through the door at a networking event. Keep focused on the conversations which are happening, and the different approaches people take, particularly if you’re new to networking, as it’s a skill you’ll need to develop and there will almost certainly be lessons you can learn.
Do your research
Detailed event information is generally available prior to attending. Get as much info as you can up-front and think hard about the value you will both gain from and, importantly, bring to an event. Think about what you’re trying to achieve and be strict with yourself about what events you do and don’t attend. Whilst it’s true that opportunity occasionally turns up where you least expect it, being shrewd with your time will ensure you don’t wander aimlessly from event to event. It’s also worthwhile taking time to understand the structure of different events as they’ll all offer something slightly different in terms of the networking experience
Have a plan
It sounds a little prescriptive but if you’re new to networking or not that confident having a plan of attack is a good start. If you’ve studied the attendee list, why not choose 5 people you want to talk to and write down a question you’d like to ask each of them. People like to be asked about what they do so this approach will always be well received and will help to keep the conversation flowing after an initial introduction.
Communication is key
This may seem a little obvious, but networking is a time to fine-tune those communication skills, it’s important to be concise when speaking to someone, whilst also being a good listener and asking questions. Try not to talk too much about yourself. It’s a skill you’ll develop and hone over time, but initially, the best advice is just to focus on having good conversations and enjoying the experience.
Don’t forget the follow-up
It’s good etiquette to follow up when you meet someone at a networking event and let’s face it if you’re trying to develop your business it’s good sense too. Here’s where modern technology can really assist your post networking efforts. Channels like LinkedIn or Twitter for the less formal make it so simple to send a quick ‘nice to meet you’ message and continue the conversation.
And one final tip…
Business cards. Yes, we said business cards! We believe it’s worth investing in some for networking purposes, it’s easier than ever to get high-quality low-cost cards printed and despite the pace of modern business, you’ll still find that a physical exchange of a card is a nice touch and yet another touch-point.