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March 1, 2017
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May 1, 2017

Network rules

There is a surfeit of networking events at the moment.  Clearly a great way to meet new people and exchange ideas, but not right for everyone. You could conceivably start with a slap up breakfast network at around 7.30am, do a mid morning event over coffee, a lunch network taking you through to 2pm, possibly fit in a few one-2-ones, before zipping into town for dim sum and more chat. Which is great for a chin-wag, but pretty poor for the waistline and disastrous for getting any work done.

So what should we do? Well, the first question to ask is whether or not you need to go to a networking event at all. It’s a real buzz word at the moment, but in all fairness, we’ve always networked, just not called it that. What about the trade association meetings you attend? Or the people down the sports club?  The ones on courses, conferences and exhibitions?

If you do feel the need for ‘formal’ networking, first of all, find one which suits you in terms of timings, frequency and members. I enjoy the monthly ‘Preston Business Network‘ lunch, and I’ve heard great things about BEN (but never been), but meeting people at 7.30am? AND being civil?.  Social media (such as Twitter and LinkedIn) provides masses of networking possibilities from your own office. It works for me, but my mind, nothing beats talking face to face.

Once at your event-of-choice though, here are some tips to help you to get the most out of it. (Thanks to Mike Ode, Oliver Westall and my LEAD action learning set for sharing their knowledge)

  • Be brave – you’re all there to meet people, which just won’t happen if you don’t join in
  • Don’t just chat to people you already know
  • Try to set yourself a target of how many new people you’ll speak to.
  • Go up to a friendly looking group and ask ‘may I join you?’.
  • When the opportunity arises, exchange cards. Use these as your prompt to guide the conversation:
    • what does your company do?
    • So what does being a *insert job title* involve?
    • What made you join this group?
  • Rehearse your own 30 second or so summary of what you do and a bit about your business. Irritatingly called an ‘elevator pitch‘ it should quickly cover what sort of problems your company comes across, and how you go about solving them.
  • Ask ‘what are you hoping to get out of this event?’
  • Invite others into your conversation group…
  • …and use this as your cue to leave and move on to meet others

Finally, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received came from Mark Williams who explained what happens when you outstay a conversation because you’re trying to appear interested. He said:

“The perception is that you’re being rude by going; but the reality is you’re being rude by staying”.

So if you’ll excuse me, there’s just someone else I’d like to catch…

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