Report on the “Networking with Confidence” business matters lunchtime talk given by Alison Edmondson and Andrew Paterson on 6th March 2013.
business matters is very grateful to KPMG who hosted the event and provided lunch for those attending.
We had advertised the talk for those who perhaps found the prospect of networking off-putting or indeed a bit of a nightmare. Alison and Andrew gave a talk which was refreshing, informative, encouraging and, above all, positive. To listen to the recording of the talk, and to see the accompanying PowerPoint slides use the icons at the foot of the page.
What follows is a distillation of the key points which Alison and Andrew made during the talk.
- The fundamental purpose of networking is not about collecting business cards or indeed collecting networking contacts but is all about building relationships – a process which is not instantaneous but takes time and effort to achieve a worthwhile and beneficial outcome.
- It is important not to forget that internal networking within a company can be just as important, especially in a large organisation.
- Networking is different from sales – the purpose is not to gain an order but to build relationships for the long term and for mutual benefit.
- Alison drew our attention to the word “WORK” in the centre of networking – networking can be enjoyable but does need to be intentional in its approach.
- Debunking one of the myths of networking, Alison indicated that it is only the first step in building a relationship – she talked about cold, warm and hot contacts and encouraged us to consider where our efforts might be best spent. Developing existing “warm” contacts is often more fruitful and natural than going all out to make new ones. It is often from the “warm” contacts that truly symbiotic business relationships develop.
Moving on from principles to practice, Andrew outlined a number of points about the preparation for networking:
- Preparation is key – consider which networking events are appropriate to attend – go for quality not quantity necessarily. Know where you are likely to meet your “warm” contacts and be intentional. Andrew highlighted that a salesman doesn’t just jump in his car in the morning and head off in a random direction – he has a plan.
- If possible, get the delegate list in advance so that you can better target your efforts.
- Consider using a 3 x 3 x 3 plan – pick three contacts who you already know to say a brief “hello” to maintain contact, three of your “warm” contacts to have a longer discussion and build the relationship and three “cold” contacts who you wish to introduce yourself to and start the process.
- Thinking about the logistics of getting to the event (map, bus timetable etc.), your appearance, feeling comfortable and confident in yourself, having enough business cards, notepaper and pens sounds obvious but can go a long way to ensuring that the event is a positive and productive one.
- Thinking about discussion topics which are current and relevant for those attending and doing a little preparation/reading beforehand is always valuable. Also find out a little about those people you think you will be meeting.
- Be prepared to answer the question “what do you do?” clearly and concisely.
In the room
Alison moved on to discuss some points on “being in the room”:
- Above all, be authentic. It is difficult to put on a “fake” character and if you truly wish the relationships being developed to be long term then they need to be based on realism and trust.
- Don’t leave your manners at the door – be kind and courteous – this puts people at their ease and helps the conversation.
- Listen and ask open questions – remember that we have two ears and one mouth – our talking should really only take up around 33% of the time.
- Look around the room and be aware of “closed” and “open” groups – groups with an odd number tend to be easier to join since a group of 3 quite naturally can become 2 x 2.
- People can find joining a group difficult – the simple phrase “please may I join you?” is often the best approach!
- Moving on from a conversation can be difficult but, if we take someone with us rather than abandoning them this can work – “shall we go and mingle?”
- During the event seek out new people – this may feel uncomfortable but we need to recognise that everyone will be feeling a little awkward.
- Perhaps go to the event with a colleague or friend – this may help to lessen the hurdle of getting started.
Finally, Andrew took us through some points relating to follow up:
- It is essential, in building long term relationships, that you reflect back on the event and judge what is successful.
- If you have interaction with 4 or 5 of the initial 9 people you targeted then that would be judged a success.
- Try and follow up an initial contact within the next 24 hours.
- Longer term, don’t deluge people with email but perhaps send a link to an article which you think would be relevant to them.
- Do what you say you will and follow through within definite time frames.
- Use your Outlook or other calendar to remind you of time commitments you have made – that way you will not forget them.
- Do what is naturally you – be authentic.
- Use opportunities which arise in the other person’s life (e.g. a promotion) to offer congratulations and maintain contact.
- Recognise the opportunities, but also the limitations, of virtual networking – for example LinkedIn – this is often not a great way to initiate a contact but may be useful for follow up.
- Don’t dismiss junior staff in a networking event – they will not always be junior and will almost certainly make good long term contacts.
Alison then encouraged everyone in the room to go and grab a sandwich and get practising! The “buzz” in the room and the many favourable comments demonstrated what a useful lunchtime talk this had been.