Confession: I hate the term networking. I think it is a term that is already so loaded with pressure, that you’re bound to fail every time you try to “network”.
Networking to me conjures up images of handing out a massive pile of my business cards, making 15+ new contacts and bringing in many $$$ of work to my business immediately after the event. How stressful does that sound?
Just because you met someone at a function once, does not mean that you will receive thousands of dollars of work from them tomorrow. You probably won’t like or trust someone who has just flung a business card in your general direction before moving on to their next target.
Creating professional contacts is all about relationship building. It’s about taking the time to get to know someone, and building trust with them. It certainly won’t happen overnight!
My top tips for “relationship building”:
1. Always check yourself in the mirror before heading to an event – you would hate to be kicking goals in meeting new people, only to find you have half your salad from lunch stuck in your teeth.
2. Be prepared to listen, lots! Often you will find out so much about someone, just by listening!
3. Have a few conversation starter questions in your mind ready to go – for example: Did you see that footy/soccer/tennis etc game last week? What did you get up on the weekend? Where did you get those shoes, I love them! These are non-threatening questions, which will immediately spark the other person’s interest, and are an easy way to start a conversation with someone you have not met before!
4. Avoid the large canapes! The last thing you want to happen is finally having the chance to talk to someone really important or interesting, and you have your mouth full of the pulled pork slider! Keep to the small canapes, that way you can digest quickly, and get back to relationship building.
5. Don’t ever dismiss the wallflower! If you notice someone on their own, either go up and talk to them, or invite them into your group’s conversation! We’ve all been to events where we’ve struggled to find our chatty mojo, help a buddy out! They will be eternally grateful, and may be just the person you have been wanting to speak to!
6. Once you meet a person, try store to memory a fact about them, so you can ask them next time – for example, how did the hockey grand final go? How did little Grace’s dance concert go? How was your holiday to Fiji? This will show that you not only can listen, but you also give a hoot!
So, next time you head to a function, take the time to talk to people, get to know them and their business – and who knows, you might walk away with a brand new relationship, which in due time, may lead to a fantastic business contact!
Kristy Dobson, Co-Chair, YP (Young Professionals) Mackay Inc