Networking is an essential skill in the business world. So why is it that so many of us find it awkward and shy away from making connections? Here’s 5 simple ways you can improve your networking skills.
1. Be Genuine
The key to a long-lasting relationship - business or otherwise - is being genuine in your interest. Instead of thinking constantly about how someone can assist you, just be their friend. You never know what sorts of connections will be useful in the future. You may find it’s a second or third tier connection that helps you out. For example, if you were a photographer you may meet a caterer and think there’s nothing to gain. However, the caterer knows a great events planner and suggests you for their next event.
2. Get techy
With LinkedIn, Facebook Business and smartphones it’s easier than ever to keep in touch. Checking your business profiles every so often will keep you up to date on your connections work and by interacting with their posts, or making your own, you’ll stay at the forefront of each other’s minds.
3. Have a short bio ready
A short and engaging introduction is a must for every networking event. A few sentences covering your name, your company, what your company does and what you do within the company is all it takes. Finish off by asking ‘what is it that you do?’ so the other person feels engaged in the conversation as opposed to listening to a radio commercial.
4. Consider hosting your own event
If you’re on the shyer side the thought of a major networking event full of people can be off-putting. Instead of losing out on the benefits of business connections, create an event that suits your personality better. It could be as simple as after work drinks in your home. Some well-arranged furniture like bar stools and a sideboard for snacks is all you need to turn your family room into an event space.
5. Listen and ask questions
The worst conversations are the one-sided ones. Rather than setting yourself a quota of people to meet and having lots of meaningless chats, focus on just a few engaged ones instead. Ask questions and listen to their answers carefully to find ways you may work together. But, keep in mind not every connection is mutually beneficial. There’s nothing wrong with politely exiting a conversation that’s headed nowhere.
If a picture paints a thousand words; then one real business relationship is worth 500 cards handed out. Be open to opportunities at every event and you’ll find success.