The new ways of networking

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Networking doesn't need to be all bad.

Networking doesn’t have to be all about awkward cocktail party conversations.

We all know the traditional ways of networking. Normally, we go to breakfast meetings or after-work events, we work the room, hand out a few business cards and hope we’re going to get business from it. For many it often feels unnatural and uncomfortable but hey, it’s the only way to grow our network, right?

Actually, no. You’re not the only person who hates weird cocktail party conversations and the good news is that networking doesn’t have to be that bad—and in fact, it shouldn’t be. The goal is to meet new people and expand your professional network but there’s no reason those activities have to be confined to conferences and industry happy hours.

Advisers have entered the age of new technologies, new business processes and new ways of engaging clients – isn’t about time we looked for new ways to network as well? All it takes is a little imagination, and networking might even be kind of fun.

These five ideas will help you get started.

1. Walk the talk

Did you know on average we sit 9.3 hours a day and now spend 11 hours a day using electronic media? Medical professionals have been singing the praises of taking active breaks at work for years now but many of us don’t have the time or energy to leave the office during the day. However, with a little planning and motivation, you can make active breaks work for your productivity, rather than hindering it by ‘Netwalking’.

Netwalking is what it sounds like, networking on a walk. It is a chance to meet peers and valuable contacts in relaxed surroundings, without the usual pressure or repetitive format.

New groups are popping up all the time across Australia, and proponents have even run masterclasses at our top universities. Of course, you don’t have to join an existing group or even use walking as your method of networking to see real outcomes. It only takes one person, with one idea to get things going.

2. Reinvent the Meet-and-Mingle

If walking isn’t your cup of tea, think about any other activities you’ve been meaning to try, or new skills you’d like to learn but haven’t gotten around to. This could by anything from taking up golf, to learning to make your own wine, or joining a book club. Try it out! People in a relaxed, social setting are usually more open to conversation, which makes this the perfect opportunity to open up, ask questions, and build new relationships.

If you’re stuck for ideas, try online (platonic!) socialising sites like Meetup. The site makes it easy for anyone to organise a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face, doing hundreds of different activities, every day.

3. Offer a helping hand

People want to buy from businesses they know and feel good about. Reaching out to your community could help you spread the word about your services and build affinity for not only your business brand but also your personal brand.

However, it is important to find an organisation or cause for which you have a true passion for. This will make donating a few hours on the weekend with likeminded individuals a much more enjoyable experience.

4. Grab a desk in a co-working space

If you work from home, or even in a small or remote office environment, you’re unlikely to meet new people very often. A possible solution may be moving into a co-working space. Dubbed the new “power pockets”, co-working spaces are effectively group offices where you can rent a space to work alongside a range of others outside your usual networks. There are a myriad benefits to consider (even if it’s only for one or two days a week) as you can get your work done, while keeping the vibe casual and bringing you under the same roof as other like-minded professionals.

However, the key is to analyse the potential gains and judge them according to your purpose. For example, if you’re looking to meet other advisers or similar industry players, join a co-working space that caters to financial services professionals. Alternatively, if you’re looking to expand your referral base, look at co-working spaces that cater to people who work in your preferred demographic.

Have a look at 10 of Australia’s best co-working locations here.

5. Take it national (or even international)

For advisers constantly on the go – be it for business or pleasure – try to seek out the people you’ve worked with in interstate or even international locations and try to meet up with them while you’re in town. It doesn’t have to be an all-day excursion, but even a quick cup of coffee to catch up can make all the difference in maintaining those relationships, as well as forming new ones by way of introduction. Speaking of which…

Financial advice is a profession built almost entirely off who you know, so don’t be afraid to ask those you know well for an introduction to those you’d like to get to know better. In the long run, you will have a much higher chance of success if you know a smaller number of people who can help your business succeed, rather than a lot of people who can’t.

Bonus tip: This goes for social media networkers too…

You may have hundreds of potential connections on LinkedIn but they’re not going to be of any value contacts to your networking goals unless you reach out.

If you share a mutual connection, engaging can be as easy as requesting an introduction (look for the “Introductions” module on the right of their profile page).But if you don’t have a mutual connection you can still reach out to any LinkedIn member using LinkedIn’s Premium messaging platform, ‘InMail’, which on average gets a response rate three times higher than email.

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Important information: This publication is dated February 2016 and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Therefore you should consider these factors, the appropriateness of the information provided, and the Zurich Wealth Protection Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) (available on www.zurich.com.au or by calling us on 131 551) before making a decision. The information in this publication is a summary only and there are relevant exclusions and conditions. Zurich Australia Limited ABN 92 000 010 195 AFSLN 232510 is the issuer of Zurich Income Replacement.

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