I once read somewhere that networking is the most necessary and the most evil of all life’s necessary evils. I, and I’m sure you, can relate to this. Even if you’re a social butterfly at a party, the idea of spending free time with strangers, waxing lyrical about your achievements doesn’t sit well.
But as you get older and discover that, unfortunately, the age old cliché of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is true, networking becomes one of those annoying adult things that is thoroughly unenjoyable but completely unavoidable.
Here are some tips to help you network like a boss, even if the word fills you with dread.
Make it easy for yourself
“Always find an event that works for you and what you want to achieve,” says Anna Addison, who runs Thirsty Thursdays networking events in Yorkshire. “It shouldn’t be a hassle or feel like a chore.
“Look for free events that are non-profit-making and support the local business community. Remember, it’s not just about winning business. You can get all sorts of advice at these events.”
Prepare your bit
“If networking doesn’t come naturally to you, preparation can help save you from those potentially awkward moments,” says Ted Nash, the cofounder and chief executive of app advertising platform Tapdaq, who says he’s been networking since he was at school.
“Consider preparing your opener before approaching new targets. Feeling tongue-tied before you even start talking business will only put you on the back foot. Anticipating questions that may be asked can prove useful too; having clear, concise answers ready will stand you in good stead before easing into the conversation naturally.”
Research your small talk
Susan RoAne, the self-styled “Mingling Maven” and author of How To Work A Room, recommends reading a newspaper just before an event, to give you a handful of topical conversations starters. Things like sports events, latest movie blockbusters or local community projects are all good ground for kicking off a conversation, she says on her blog.
“What you have in common make ideal icebreakers: the venue, the food, the event or the host,” she adds. “Come prepared with three items to start or energise a conversation. They are everywhere.”
Use social media
“I tend to follow up on social media with anyone I’ve met at an event,” says Alison Battisby, social media consultant and founder of Avocado Social. “Better still, follow some people prior to the event that you plan on talking to. This recently worked very well for me on a trade mission with Enterprise Nation. I followed everyone else attending, which was a great conversation starter when I met the businesses face to face.”
Quality is better than quantity
According to US networking expert and author of the business book How To Be A Power Connector, Judy Robinette, you should focus more on nurturing your relationships with those in your network, rather than making new connections. “When it comes to building a powerful network, I believe that quality trumps quantity every time,” she wrote on her blog.
“Power connecting means developing genuine relationships – and science shows there’s an upper limit on the number of relationships we can maintain at any one time. A small, targeted network can be far more powerful than a big loose one.”
Do you have any great networking tips? Tweet us @YahooStyleUK.