Make networking work for you

Networking can delivered more return on investment than any other business tool, but with so many events taking place every night of the week across the UK, how can you stand out from the sea of names, numbers and business cards?

Time is money for many business owners, and understandably many don’t have time for small talk over prosecco.

Despite the value in making business contacts, not everyone enjoys networking. It’s important to know that there are many benefits to networking – free publicity being one – but going out with a “what can I get from this?” attitude is going to set you back before you begin.

We asked one of the founders of the newest co-working office space in Manchester, WorkPlace, who sees networking as the core of today’s business world. Jane Schofield, director at WorkPlace, admittedly attended “every kind of networking even imaginable” upon launching her business.

“We want to talk to as many people as possible about our new business and invite them to come and check out WorkPlace. But, although we think we have a great concept we know that people won’t just believe us after a five minute chat – time needs to be taken to develop the relationship,” she says.

Here are her top tips for getting – and giving – the most out of networking.

Forget business event – think relationship

Think of it more like a social event and the opportunity to make new and lasting friendships. “Go and seek out these new friends, and plant the seed for what could develop into a beautiful new (business) relationship,” advises Schofield.

Be interested and interesting

Don’t focus on what they can do for you and what you can do for them – friendships don’t work like this. You have to invest time in getting to know people – make them want to find out more about you and stay in touch. As Schofield says, give before you receive.

Arrive early

If you don’t like networking, arriving late seems like a good idea but by then the party has already started and it can be daunting to break into groups that are already in discussion. “I have a friend who always arrives early and then stands and greets as many people as he can. It’s a nice trick and people, especially those flying solo, are often so pleased to see a friendly face, that it can reap great dividends,” she advises.

Ditch the pitch

If you expect to go to a networking event and sell, then you are at the wrong event – it’s all about relationship building. “I always try to find a way we can help the people we are talking to – either recommending a contact or a website that might be of interest,” according to Schofield.

Share your passion

In order for people to want to work with you, your passion needs to come across. “If you work for Mercedes, make me want to buy a Mercedes car. There is nothing more off-putting than someone who is bored talking about what they do.”

Don’t hijack the conversation

Nerves can make us talk too much and we forget to listen. “Nobody likes someone who holds court and doesn’t let people get a word in – listen more than you talk,” she says.

Always follow up

Never go to an event and forget to take note of the people who have attended. Schofield adds, “If someone interested me, I will do a little more research and make an effort to stay in touch from time to time.”

See also: 5 networking tips that prove it’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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