How to Network

IN THIS DAY AND AGE, NETWORKING IS VITAL FOR BUSINESS, BUT IF YOU ’RE NEW TO IT, THEN WHERE DO YOU START? EMMA COX, WHO RUNS COX CONSULTANCY, CHAIRS THE WOMEN IN BUSINESS WEST KENT GROUP AND TEACHES PEOPLE HOW TO NETWORK EFFECTIVELY, HAS THESE TIPS TO HELP YOU…

How important is networking?

I believe that networking is vital for all businesses in 2017. It gives us a chance to get to know someone before doing business with them. It connects us with other people and their networks.

What are the common things that put people off networking?

Uncertainty, not knowing what to expect, a lack of confidence and sometimes having the wrong impression that it’s very formal and only for people in certain industries.

What are the first things you should do if you’re at an event where you don’t know anyone?

Find and introduce yourself to the meeting host. Ask them about the meeting (format, what’s expected of you, who will be attending etc. if you don’t already know this). Ask them to introduce you to someone.

How can you ensure you make a good first impression?

Listen to other people and ask questions. Create rapport (the weather is always a good conversation starter, or ask about someone’s journey). Arrive on time, dress appropriately and have business cards to give out. Also keep to time during your talk, – if you are given one minute you need to finish by this time or as near to it as you can.

How can you deal with a fear of speaking in public?

The first answer is to practice what you are going to say. Have notes (bullet points) that you can refer to. Stand up in the meeting and take a deep breath before speaking as it gives your voice more power.
If you need help there are public speaking coaches who will give you feedback about specific areas and work with you to prepare so you feel more confident.

Are there mistakes people make when trying to network? How can they be avoided?

The most common mistake people make is to talk too much about themselves when it’s better to ask questions of the other person. A networking meeting is the opportunity to find out a little about the other person so you can then go on to a further meeting when you can see whether you could work together. People forget to bring business cards and do any preparation before the meeting.

I recommend the following:

■ Check with the organizer that the meeting is still going ahead and what the format will be, what is expected of you, whether there’s a ‘one minute’ introduction etc.
■ Have business cards with your contact details on including your name, phone number and email address (it still surprises me that people miss some of these details).
■ Allow enough time to get there slightly early to ensure you are not stressed when you arrive.
■ Have an outline of what you are going to say in bullet points.
■ Make eye contact when doing your one minute talk and don’t just read from your notes.

How can you deal with a fear of speaking in public?

The first answer is to practice what you are going to say. Have notes (bullet points) that you can refer to. Stand up in the meeting and take a deep breath before speaking as it gives your voice more power.
If you need help there are public speaking coaches who will give you feedback about specific areas and work with you to prepare so you feel more confident.

Once you’ve made a successful connection, how should you follow up the correspondence?

Connect up on LinkedIn, offer to meet for a coffee and to find out more about each other. If that’s not possible then
do a Skype call. If you have permission from them then add them to your email newsletters.

What are your tips for networking online?

LinkedIn is the first place to start.  I describe it as a ‘loose’ network where you don’t have to be very active and you can find people when you need to.
I also find Facebook groups good for keeping in touch between meetings. Most business networking groups have a Facebook group. Check the rules for each for what you can post and on what days.

Can you give any simple advice for someone starting up a business but has never really networked before?

Networking is not just about getting new clients. It’s a place to make friends, get support and help, try out new business ideas, find potential collaborators and much more. Try several different groups to find the ones that work for you.
One important point is to remember that you need to go networking regularly so that people get to know you and they understand and remember what you do.
Networking is not about selling, it’s about attracting people to you (that both in person and online)
It’s also about the ‘long game’ as most business only comes once you ‘meet, like, know and learn to trust’ the other person.

If you want to try some local networking groups visit www.simplenetworking.uk for a list of my recommendations. I also run workshops teaching people how to network effectively at www.networktonetwork.co.uk