Making connections with people, ‘networking’ goes hand in hand with running a successful business. It involves interactions and sharing of information to develop professional or social contacts in areas of common interest. Arguably for some, networking has become a necessity, but for many it is something they dread doing. Walking into a room of strangers and making conversation can be daunting. Here we discuss some useful tips to engage in more effective networking.
Widening your network exposes you to people and these people are a lot more likely to work with you if they have met you face-to-face. It is important to cultivate productive relationships and although these might not be lasting contacts, the interaction can be inspirational. Being a creative practitioner often requires some level of co-creation and widening your network can enable you to understand who is out there and areas of possible co-operation.
How can we improve our networking skills? Resist the urge to arrive late, as this can often be counter-productive. Instead, show up early at networking events. The event will often be calmer and quieter at the start and people will not have settled into their discussion groups yet.
But how do you enter into the conversation of the group? Try walking into the group facing the person who is doing the talking, more often than not they will acknowledge you, and bring you into the conversation. There is nothing wrong with joining a group and waiting for a natural break in the conversation to introduce yourself. In most cases, the people who are already speaking will enjoy the interruption because it gives them a chance to meet someone new. If you sense that you have entered into a serious discussion, it is okay to politely excuse yourself.
If you have had a great exchange, stay in touch by email, phone or social networks like LinkedIn. Try renewing contact within 48 hours of the event to show that you are interested and reference something you discussed, so that your contact remembers you. Networking skills are useful in any business or social setting.