With autumn almost upon on us, businesses are gearing up on the networking opportunities. This is especially so in London, arguably the networking capital of the world. Rachel Fay, Networking Facilitator, shows you how to join in:
Top Ten Tips for Networking
1. Fear is normal. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Other people will welcome your approach and they will be keen to meet people too.
2. Prepare one line on what you do – your elevator pitch – and memorise it.
3. If possible, obtain the Guest List in advance. Make a note of who you want to meet and ask the Host to introduce you. If he or she is busy, or unwilling, as is sometimes the case, persist. A good host will always introduce his or her guests.
4. If the host can’t or won’t introduce you, approach someone in the room at random and ask if they know the person you are hoping to meet. Try to get the attention of someone who is constantly chatting – they are more likely to know people – but if that’s not possible, anyone will do. Don’t think too much about finding the ‘right’ person to ask. Even if they don’t know the person, it’s an excellent ice-breaker to make the enquiry.
5. If you don’t have a Guest List, tell the Host the type of person you would like to meet, either by their company, or their job title, or type of work they do. Be persistent. It’s part of his or her job to introduce you.
6. Failing that, look for two people who are talking to each other but are ready to meet someone new. You can tell this by the way they are standing. Their shoes will not generally be pointing towards each other, but will be splayed outwards. Then look at the shape they make with their bodies. People who are deep in conversation which they do not want interrupted will stand close to each other, blocking off intruders. Those who are hoping someone will come along will stand in an open formation, leaving space for you.
7. You can look for the body posture of small groups too, but try to start with two people if you are not used to approaching strangers.
8. I find that saying “May I say Hello?” always works. No-one ever says No, though occasionally they’ll say they just want to finish their conversation, in which case you can approach them later. Then tell them your name (I like to use surnames as well as it allows people to place you) followed by your company name: “I’m John Smith from Charles Stanley”. You will find that people usually volunteer their name without being asked when you tell them yours. They also tend to copy the format that you use: if you give your surname they will too. If you leave it out, they do too.
With luck one of the two people will introduce you to the other. If not, don’t hesitate to ask. You need to know with whom you are speaking. Often one of the two people will drift off at this point, glad of the excuse to move off.
9. Now either ask “What’s your role at Bloggs & Wiggins?” or say your elevator pitch. It doesn’t matter who says what first, the point is to establish if the person you are talking to is:
a) A potential buyer of your service
b) A ‘pipeline’ person who can provide you with contacts or information
c) A seller of a product or service your company may want to buy
d) A person you just like
10. If the person you are talking to is a potential buyer of your service you’ve hit the jackpot. Depending on how the event has been billed and who is attending, these people are the hardest to find and the ones most business people want to meet. Congratulate yourself on your bravery in getting yourself in front of them, keep calm and keep what you say next brief and to the point.
Networking is both a skill and an art. The skill can be learnt. Once you’ve learnt the skill the pleasure to be derived from the art is personally rewarding and profitable.