Networking. It’s a necessity in today’s world; a skill that even the meekest of souls must master in order to thrive and survive within highly-competitive corporate environments.
But winning over the attention, hearts and minds of complete strangers is hard work. It doesn’t come easy to many of us.
Last week I had the opportunity to hear from Bath-based training consultant Simon Hares, who delivered a ‘Working The Room’ presentation to a bunch of early-risers as part of The Glove Factory’s regular Rooster Talks series.
Simon oozes enthusiasm, and his personality is infectious, so it’s little wonder that he’s an expert on networking. But as he spoke, it became clear to me that confident networking was not something that just came naturally to him – far from it. It was a skill that he has worked hard at developing and honing over the years, to the point where he can now pass particular ‘tricks’ and pearls of wisdom on to others.
There’s never been a better time to connect
Taking it back to networking’s raison d’être, the talk looked at why capitalising on networking events is so incredibly important in this day and age.
At heart, people buy from people. In an increasingly disconnected society – one in which we’re never out of reach of our trusty smartphones and where we seemingly place more value on virtual connections than on physical relationships – it’s now refreshing to have a positive, face-to-face conversation. One in which both parties listen and actively seek out each other’s opinions.
Positive networking creates new contacts, new conversations and, with the right approach, new opportunities. A networking event is the platform upon which to make that invaluable first impression; a foundation on which to build in the future.
For Hares, networking success comes from being focused – choosing your event very carefully, researching who will be there in advance, and having your elevator pitch squared firmly in your mind.
His advice is to channel your ‘inner wolf’. Walking the floor; observing everything you see; listening carefully; keeping eyes peeled for friendly faces. These tactics all add up to making the most of a networking opportunity.
Playing the long game
Networking success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term commitment, and one where perseverance ultimately pays off.
Creating an initial strategy and sticking to it, really zoning in on the right opportunities, being resilient and unwilling to fall at the first hurdle, and constantly evaluating, reflecting and improving your performance are proven to enhance networking success.
As someone that has always struggled with the intrinsic narcissism that seems to come with being a successful networker, I came away from last week’s talk feeling both inspired and encouraged.
It made me realise that I don’t have to change my personality; in fact, it’s my personality that will be the natural difference maker.
Taking on board Hares’ advice, I’ll be fiercer, and more focused, in my approach to networking – using future events as the perfect opportunity to create positive interactions and explore how I can use my PR and marketing experiences to help tell the stories of others.