Prepare to be Amazed: Why Preparation is Everything When Networking
Networking matters in business. As a provider of professional services, it’s an opportunity you can’t afford to miss out. Whether it’s meeting new people, sharing insights, pitching ideas, understanding a new industry, learning new skills, collecting business cards, or establishing partnerships, networking is the fuel that can ignite your potential and turn it into profit.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to network. Ask any business professional. They will all tell you that a lot of work goes into networking. Dig deeper, and you find out the key to their success lies in preparation. It’s what helps them get things done when it matters the most.
And if the system works for them, it’s high time you make it work for you. So, are you ready to be amazed? Here’s how to successfully prepare yourself for any networking opportunity.
- Know your goals (and limitations)
When it comes to networking (like with most things in business), having clear goals help. Knowing what you want to achieve from any interaction will motivate you to work for it when you meet someone. It doesn’t have to be significant. Most people usually set their sights on exchanging phone numbers, business cards or connecting on LinkedIn. I like to meet in person and send a personal message. Don’t go around hurling your card at everyone in the room. Remember, less is more. Select those you exchange with to purposefully grow your network in a meaningful way that will assist you to achieve your goals.
- Set clear expectations
When you establish contact with someone, it’s important to be upfront about what comes next. If the person is interested in continuing the conversation, arrange a meeting or a coffee, or tell them when to expect your call. It outlines the future path of your relationship and clearly signifies it as of professional benefit.
- Focus on the relationship
Although a goal is essential for networking, you shouldn’t focus all your attention on business. After all, you are talking to a real person. So, focus on them. Listen to what they have to say, their pains, what they need, and who they are. Learning how to open your ears gives you the opportunity to put yourself in their shoes, and see the world from their perspective. It’s really about being thoughtful and actually connecting – not just talking to someone.
- Ask questions
Even though the conversation should follow its natural flow, it’s always good to prepare a few questions for a networking event. It’s not unheard of to have a mental block sometimes. Have your backup questions to initiate or maintain the conversation. For example, if you’re at an event, you may ask “What sparked your interest in this event?”. An open ended question assists in digging beyond the surface and will often carry a conversation for longer, becoming more interesting and, even, insightful.
- Give feedback
If you are going to a networking event, giving feedback is a useful trick to interact with the organiser. In professional services, there is often an event coordinator who works with a partner of the firm to deliver the event. Sharing your experience is an excellent opportunity to schedule a catch up. Plus, you get to start the conversation with a compliment which is always a good way to begin a relationship and build rapport.
- Connect on social media
Finally, use social media to your advantage. You can find out who is attending and begin to research the event attendees even before you leave your desk. You may like to connect with someone before an event to initiate the conversation. It will be more comfortable to walk up to them and continue once you finally meet face to face.
- Start networking
Networking is an art, as much as it is a science. There are a lot of steps you need to practice to master it and make it work for you. And here at the Thought Leadership Initiative, we know this.
We use our know-how to give you a critical nudge in the right direction, to reach the level of networking savviness you want to achieve. So you can discover new opportunities and use them to supercharge your business. Contact us today, and find out how.