Location, Lists & Listening...
In today’s digital age, networking is often thought of something that we do online: posting photos and clips of ourselves in fun situations in return for likes and comments.
This isn’t really networking though. Definitely not the successful kind of networking that gives real results.
While our social networks can be of great benefit to us as networkers, they should be a secondary tool to support us in the real world.
The true art of networking involves face to face communication with people who can help you to progress in your professional, social, and even romantic life.
Networking, essentially, is leveraging your life through others.
If you want to meet your next business buyer, a specific professional connection, or even a hot date: you need to step out of your home, and your comfort zone and find real opportunities to connect.
There are three main steps to confident networking success: location, lists & listening.
Networking is like fishing. If you want to catch fish, you need to know the right spots.
To know where you want to fish, or network, you first need to know who you want to speak to.
Think first about who inspires you most: what profession are they in? Where do they network? What kinds of things do they enjoy?
When you start to understand where your target market is, you can find a way in.
Figure out exactly who you want to meet and why before you head out. I don’t mean a specific person in general, that’s a tip for another day.
Have lists of your goals, outcomes, and perfect catches.
When you have them actually written down in lists, just keep them in your back pocket as a cheat sheet to remind you if necessary.
While you are networking, just start to chat about your goals, business problems, and the kinds of people you are interested in meeting.
It’s amazing, but when you start to write and talk about what you want, these things gravitate towards you.
Figure out what your perfect networking catch would be: a new client, for instance, and then subtly talk about your perfect networking matches.
If the person you are speaking to can help, they’ll gladly offer their services.
If they can’t help directly, they’ll often suggest a contact if you’ve taken the previous step and listened to them enough.
Be warned though, the majority of people want to talk about their own business problems and what they can offer to the world, and that’s why the next step is possibly the most important.
Listening is perhaps the most important skill in communication, and this is especially true when it comes to networking.
People love to talk about themselves, their goals, their dreams, their family, and even their problems.
If you will take the time to listen to people while networking, you can gain trust, build rapport, and discover deep insights into that person that they reveal not only through what they say, but the subtle sub-communications they give off through their stories and body language.
Opening up a conversation with anyone at a networking event is easy: just ask how they are finding the event and if they came for any particular reason.
People will respond well to a different question than “How are you?” or some throwaway comment about the weather.
Whenever I go to networking events I make sure to spend 20% of the time talking and 80% of the time listening.
People really appreciate this, and the best thing is that I am able to help them solve their own problems by just asking more and more open questions like:
“What have you tried so far?”
“How would doing that change your business?”
“Who could that affect if you changed that part of the business?”
The greatest thing is: when you listen for long enough people will realise and then give you ALL of their time. They’ll say something like:
“I’ve been talking for ages, tell me about you”.
And it’s at this point that you can start to make links between what you came for, and what they want to achieve.
You will have gained enough trust and rapport to ask for potential referrals or suggestions on their part.
This can all happen in one day or night, but it all happens as part of a strategy.
Rather than being someone who bumbles from one networking event to the next just hoping to find someone interesting, or avoid someone boring, have a plan.
Go out into the world knowing exactly what you want, but with the willingness to give your time and patience to others and everything will come to you.
If you spend your time listening and helping others to solve their problems then they will repay that by giving you exactly what you need afterwards.
First, though, you have to fish in the right waters and know exactly what type of fish you need to catch.
If you want to develop the kind of confidence needed to own the room at any networking event then join our upcoming course.
All the best in your adventures.
Project Charisma Coach
A corporate trainer, award-winning speaker, TEDx Speaker coach, and former President and Area Director of Toastmasters International, Danny designs and delivers Leadership Development Programmes as well as coaching professional speakers. He is a Chartered Manager, a member of the CIPD, and dedicates his life to developing people for personal effectiveness, and business success.