7 blue chip networking tips

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Zurich's tip for networking.

Zurich’s tip for networking.

The very word networking can evoke a variety of emotions in people. For some, images of thrusting extroverts handing out business cards at breakneck speed will spring to mind. Others think of it as a chore, or even worse, something that can be a bit awkward and uncomfortable.

However you think approach it, there is no doubt that the most successful business people are also very effective networkers. For your benefit we have scoured the globe in search of the best tips on how to improve your networking.

And bear in mind these principle are ageless, and apply as much to social media platforms (such as LinkedIn) as they do to more traditional face to face networking.

1. Pick the right forum

As the old saying goes, fish where the fish are. Put another way, networking via industry forums is more likely to bring you into contact with other fisherman, not fish. A better way to go is to identify a forum where the members are either prospects themselves, or centres of influence who can lead you to prospects. Think LinkedIn discussion groups (keep an eye out for people discussing topics where you can add value). In the offline world community based forums and associations are a great way to come into contact with people from all walks or life. Consider your local marketing institute chapter, or chamber of commerce. Even sporting and cultural associations can be a chance to meet a wide array of people, as well as indulging a passion.

2. Start small

Don’t set yourself targets that are insurmountable and stressful as they can be counterproductive, especially if you are a relatively inexperienced networker. If you are attending an event, rather than trying to meet every single attendee, aim to have 2 or 3 quality connections. If you know someone at an event (or are connected on LinkedIn), ask them to introduce you to some of their connections.

3. Be authentic and be positive

Successful networking is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t just simply aim to hand out a whole stack of business cards in a series of superficial interactions, and don’t try and be someone you are not. And on LinkedIn never EVER invite someone to connect using the default wording (always add your own context). The best networkers are genuinely interested in the people they meet, rather than what those people can do for them or buy from them. Networker supreme Dale Carnegie once said ‘you can make more friends in 2 months by becoming interested in people than in 2 years spent making people interested in you.

4. Behavioural tips for events

 

Just as with a sales pitch, preparation is everything. Here are some golden rules:

  • Prepare an introduction about yourself, that tells people who you are, how you fit into the current situation, and what you can do for others (this principle applies to LinkedIn too, does your profile really help people understand who you are, or does it just say you are the CEO of XYZ Wealth?)
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of a good, solid handshake with two or three ‘pumps’ of the hands
  • Hold your drink in your left hand, so your right hand isn’t cold or damp for handshakes
  • Put your name tag on the right side of your chest, as this is where the eye goes when shaking hands
  • Avoid opening conversations with topics which can be divisive (politics, religion etc)
  • Ask open ended questions and be an attentive listener
  • If it is a ‘stand up’ event, try and eat BEFORE you arrive. This is for both image reasons (eating isn’t always a good look) and practical reasons (shaking hands with greasy fingers).

5. Be a giver

As in many aspects of life, in networking it can be better to give than to receive. Aim to become known as a resource for others, which may mean initially giving more than receiving. According to the Australian Institute of Management, networking is about ‘building a relationship before you need it’. Networking is about generosity. If you connect with someone and do something for them, your generosity will be repaid many times over, often when least expected and in ways you never imagined. This is 100% true for online networking as well.

6. Volunteer, contribute

If you are really starting from scratch, in a forum where you know very few people, try volunteering to help out, either on a committee or just with organising specific events. It’s a great way to make connections and establish a reputation as a ‘giver’. Another way to give, and also become known as an expert in your field, is by contributing articles for newsletters, websites etc.

7. Be organised and follow up

Make sure you have a good system to file and refer back to connections you have made (LinkedIn makes this easier by storing your contacts but also being self-updated by your contacts). If you have made a commitment, no matter how small, always deliver (for example by emailing that article or website link). If you are going to make follow up calls try and be sensitive as to what time of the week or day you are calling (try and avoid times when they are likely to be busy or travelling).

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