How to improve your networking skills...with these 5 do's and don'ts!

How to improve your Networking skills...

If you want to grow your business or your sales then networking is essential. Some of us are naturals and enjoy networking, for them this is one of their main activities in getting new prospects.

For others, networking is like walking into a real-life nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be! Because let’s face it, ladies, networking events are here to stay and grow. I see more and more businesswomen creating or attending business events to learn, grow and connect. It is a great way to meet fellow business women and business men!

With this guideline, I hope I can make your networking life a bit easier and more pleasant.

Be yourself – just connect
Be yourself, it’s the most natural way and they should like to connect with you for being you! Fake smiles, fake responses are easily detectable and people might start to avoid you as they are feeling played with.

Find the loner
It can be scary to walk into a room full of people that you don’t know but are expected to connect with. Here is my advice, there is always a loner just like you standing somewhere feeling uncomfortable. Find and approach the loner, networking with a sidekick is easier and maybe more fun as well.

Show interest/ask questions
Found that interesting person? Then show it! Nothing as rude as when the person you are talking to has wondering eyes…e.g. looking around the room for a…? Better conversation partner? The toilet? Who knows. Show interest by nodding and asking questions, engage with the person you are talking to.

Listen and respond
This should be very easy, as people LOVE to talk about themselves. Let them talk…you learn a lot from it! Listen to what they say, remember it (comes in handy later on, see BONUS at the bottom of the page) and respond to them either verbally or non-verbally but show that you understood what they are saying and that you are engaged in the conversation.

Think long-term investment/relationship
This is another personal advice I would like to give you. Whenever I go to an event, meeting or meet new people, I think long-term…You are investing your time and so is the other person. Not all contacts you will meet will be long-term, but the ones that will, are worth it!

Focusing on title/position
This just has to do with arrogance…let’s be honest, right? Just because they are not the CEO or director doesn’t mean they are not interesting to talk to and meet with.

Image a group of 4 people who are talking to each other and then… that one person who just stands there and is not joining the conversation…this is what I call a lurker. Don’t be that person, listen and engage…Really, if you listen well there is bound to be a topic you can join!

The biggest NO-NO! It’s unattractive, unflattering and unnecessary. Men or women, whenever drunk are annoying and irritating. Have a drink, by all means, I do that too but know your limit.

Me, Myself and I
Love talking about Me, Myself and I? Save that part for when you are with your parents, they love you unconditionally and love to hear you talk about yourself (some wish you would do that more often). But during networking events the goal is to gain new networks, either new partners, clients or a mentor, let them talk about themselves, you will come later. Trust me, they will ask.

I am a Sales Manager and you would think “why not sell my product or company?”. Because there is a time and place for everything. Network events are neither a good time or place for that.

Great example: You are on your first date with a guy, would you tell him you can be a great girlfriend or potential wife and sell your “persona” during the date? No! Because first dates are for testing the waters, see if you like each other, have the same interest, laugh at his jokes (although we know they are not always funny), make the other person like you first. We have a word for it in my country, it’s called the “GunFactor”, which basically means we love do to business with people we like.

Maintaining your network
You went to a network event, meeting or gathering and met with interesting people…now what?
Well, multiple options, you can add them on LinkedIn and (please, please do this) send them a personal message, you can use anything from the conversation you had with them, and link with them.

For example: Dear Sara,
It was a pleasure meeting you today/yesterday, I enjoyed our conversation on XYZ. I would love to meet you for lunch or a drink and discuss it further. I am available on XXX and XXX what would suit you?

Again, I am giving you advice on personal experience, I have linked with many people this way and heard that the reason they linked was due to my personal message.

Where to join or find networking events
-       Meetup
-       Facebook shows events nearby you
-       Google events plus the city you are in
-       Networking events provided by your company
-       Join a friend to a networking event