5 Tips for Reluctant Networkers

When I started  Your Time Matters , I knew the most cost effective way to build my business with a limited marketing budget, was to go  out and build a network.  I knew that to increase  brand awareness and visibility of my service, I needed to meet people.   I  knew  it was important to engage with other business owners  who could help me  develop my business skills,   provide me knowledge and build relationships  with likeminded others  who in time would become my advocates, suppliers  and clients.

 

In the early days,  I recall attending a business breakfast and  taking my husband along for support,  under the pretence that the speaker would be of interest to  him.  I think it really to boost my confidence. Even though I had escorted groups overseas, run a craft market with over 100 stallholders and taught in a classroom, I had not fully realised how transferable my skills were to be. 

 

On occasions we are all reluctant networkers!

Reflecting back, through my career portfolio, I had talked to and built relationships with  loads of people whilst employed  in the travel industry, arranging itineraries for corporate clients and even,  escorting groupsof 100 plus people on conference tours. I had established and operated a successful craft market in the ‘90’s and organised  hundreds of stall holders on a monthly basis,  negotiated with local council and  marketed to the public,  with never a qualm.  

 

Years as a teacher had developed my communication skills through engaging with children, parents and fellow staff members. My ability to make conversation and ask the right questions was enhanced as I assisted  Corporate executives and their families settle into Melbourne, when  working as a Home Relocation consultant.   I had  grown a diverse network and should never have doubted my ability to connect and establish  relationships. Even as a parent,  contributing on  committees and talking with  parents on the sidelines at sport events,   had taught me the value of social networks and the art of conversation. For me, that is what networking is all about.  Connecting, engaging, building relationships and looking for opportunities to help others achieve their desired outcomes, whether in  a social or professional level.

 

If you are in  business or are seeking employment then you MUST get out. The power of word-of mouth and “who do you know who…? ”  will open doors and opportunities  more cost effectively, than advertising your services or answering an advertisement on  an employment  website where hundreds   of people respond for the one job or provide a similar service or product. Many people are reluctant networkers and find it hard to start an initial conversation with strangers.  In fact, arriving at a party or work function to a room full of people you do not know is often intimidating and I do recall those feelings and on occasions, am reluctant to approach those I did not know.  Remember, that many people feel exactly the same and you can help them be more comfortable.

Here are 5 tips I  suggest you  apply to both your social and business networking to  make your networking experience easier.  

  • Take on the persona of the Host of the party.  As  the “Host” make others feel comfortable . Pass around the food,  or introducing people to one another.
  • Be yourself, smile and relax.  Start to build rapport.  Be friendly.  Share something of yourself .
  • Focus on the person you are speaking with…. they are the most important person in the room.
  • Ask open questions and practice active listening.
  • Be on time.  It is easier to be approached, than to break into a group that is already established in conversation.

Remember, practise makes perfect and all the encounters you have with a range of people, both socially and professionally, will build not only your networking skills, but also your busienss. Think of Networking as relationship building, not selling. If you want more experience in a friendly and supportive environment, join me at a YTM Business Networking event soon. 

Kerryn PowellComment