Some people really enjoy networking but for others the prospect of making small talk with a room full of strangers is something to be avoided like, umm - well, like a room full of strangers. Nonetheless, despite the rise in online communications, taking the time to meet and greet people is part and parcel of modern business. To that end MT scoured the archive in search of these gems of networking wisdom.
Talk to everyone and anyone
Networking isn’t just about bending the ear of the powerful chief exec that everybody at an event is queuing up to meet. ‘The best advice came from my mum: speak to everyone and anyone,’ says Brie Rogers Lowery, UK director at Change.org. ‘You never know who that person may know.’ That doesn't just apply to work scenarios. The guy you get trapped in a lift with or the parents at the school gate are always worth a chinwag too.
There's nothing worse than a lack of sincerity. ‘Don’t fight against your naturally loveable disposition,’ said Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking. ‘Inauthentic behaviour makes networking backfire, causing you to blow out faster than a sixteen-wheeler on hot summer asphalt. Don’t blab, instead ask thoughtful questions and really listen to the answers. Your popularity will soar and you never need to scrounge around for conversation starters again.’
Don’t just talk business
‘You should not network by holding out your business card at an event and asking "and what do you do?"’ wrote Julia Hobsbawm, the world’s first professor in networking. ‘Our professional and personal lives are becoming so blended that to offer your day job as the definition of who you are is no longer accurate enough. There is a line between sharing and oversharing, especially online, but face-to-face you might start by asking something as straightforward as 'how are you today?' or by mentioning something personal to get a proper connection going.’
Always follow up
There's no point in braving the networking gauntlet if you lose touch with those you meet. ‘Make mental notes during conversation with your new contact that give you a pretext to follow up,’ wrote Alexander Garrett, who pens MT’s regular Crash Course feature. ‘If they're about to go on holiday to Marrakech, send them details of that fabulous restaurant you know there. Invite them to an event you think they'll be interested in.’
Keep it up
‘Networking is not one of those things you can dip in and out of,’ said Celia Pronto. ‘You’ve got to invest in the relationships and be helpful. It’s not just expecting something from the people you meet.’