How to get the most from networking

Practical networking tips that will help you get more business

Personally, I’m a huge fan of networking and social interactions in general. Yes, I realise that “being a fan of social interactions” can sound a tad silly, but it’s true. Allow me to elaborate. If you know how to talk to people and how to present your point, there’s almost always something to be gained from a positive social interaction. You don’t even have to be at a designated “networking event” to benefit from your “networking skills”. As a matter of fact, most of the qualities attributed to, and associated with, someone good at networking are also present in people who just want to make friends and help others!

You’ve already breached the borders of your comfort zone, without realizing it!

As I often say, choosing to start your own business is a risky thing. You’ve given up the safety net that is a guaranteed monthly paycheck. You’ve decided that you, in fact, do have what it takes to control your own destiny.

Running a business is a journey of self-improvement

Don’t believe me? Think about all of the new things that you’ve had to learn since deciding to become a business owner. Almost every single skill, used for running a business, is also helpful in your day-to-day life as well:

  • Self-confidence
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Discerning the real value of things
  • Turning less-than-ideal situations around
  • Multitasking

1. Networking 101: Go where the people are

If you’re going to an event with the intent of networking, you will want to filter your options carefully. The Internet and social networks have done a lot of great things for us, but giving everyone the ability to host events of no significance isn’t one of them. As soon as you open a Facebook or LinkedIn account, you will be bombarded by so many “business events in your area”, that you can’t possibly show up to them all.

2. Use every opportunity you get to network

If you aren’t going out with the intent of networking … you can still expand your network! You don’t really need to be at a fancy conference to meet other business people. Contrary to what you see on TV, most business owners don’t only ever hang out in the extremely expensive, members-only clubs. And, in case you actually want to only talk with the type of people that do … well, you know where to find them!

  • The mall
  • The gym
  • The beach
  • The park
  • The café

3. If they can’t approach you, you can’t really have a conversation

If you want people to feel comfortable approaching you, you need to make yourself approachable. It is as simple as that. Don’t stand facing the wall. Don’t frown in the general direction of the whole room. Don’t act as if you’d rather be anywhere else but here.

4. Always have a goal in mind

Expanding your professional network is an integral part of business success, and it should be treated as such. If you want to be successful with your networking attempts, you should always approach your meetings with a plan in mind. Enter into the conversation with the goal of learning more about the person you’re talking to and be interested. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you looking for?
  • How many new connections are you trying to establish?
  • What type of people do you want to connect with?
  • What do your connections need to have in common?

5. Be the conversation starter

Not all conversationalists are good business leaders, but all good business leaders are excellent at starting conversations.

  • Their interests
  • Their passions
  • What brings them to this event/location/conference
  • What they think is the most important/interesting take-away from the event so far?
  • What is the biggest take-away from similar events that they’ve attended in the past?

6. Keep the conversation going

Conversations take more than one person. If you want the discussion to remain interesting for your partner, or better yet — to leave a lasting positive impression on them, you need to make it interactive. And as much as you might enjoy hearing yourself speak, there are no guarantees that whoever you’re talking to shares your position. As with all things in life, moderation is advised. Ideally, you’d both do the same amount of talking and sharing opinions.

7. Invest yourself — Give first, receive later

Provide something of value to your conversation partner. You could offer them a piece of advice or insight on something that they’ve mentioned, suggest a given approach, share a life experience, related to the subject, or suggest connecting them to someone that could help them.

8. Stay Positive

I’ve already mentioned how important it is to surround yourself with happy and positive people on many occasions. You always want to pick the uplifting and success-minded individuals over the gloomy defeatists. But here’s the thing — these same positive people won’t want someone negative either.

9. Don’t talk just to fill the silence

If you’re new to networking, or to owning a business altogether, it’s really easy to get lost in all the excitement, anxiety and stress surrounding your first events. And, filling the silence with empty words, talking just for the sake of talking, can be very tempting. But this is a trap that you should aim to avoid at all costs.

10. Remember to enjoy yourself

Try to make the most out of your experience. Even if the conversation or event at hand isn’t going your way, if you don’t feel particularly excited about what’s going on, don’t let it get to you. After all, you’re there to have a good time… Or, at least, that’s what you want it to look like.

11. Always follow up

Contacts that you’ve made during networking need to be “kept warm” not unlike your other business leads. Make a habit of planting expectations of future conversations within the people you meet and always follow up on it (and this is precisely where note-keeping Apps and schedulers come into use). Over time, this will allow you to build reliable connections with numerous people across all business fields and niches.

Entrepreneur and eco-friendly enthusiast. I’m on a green mission to clean up the way we live. Share the passion — follow my journey now!