Business networking is common practice in the professional world. Working professionals meet up, at events, with the intention of purely talking about business, with the hope they make take leads to improve their business in the future. This could be a new customer, a new supplier, meeting a new stakeholder or could meeting key members in the chosen field they work in. It can be whatever people want it to be.
What I have always thought, however, is that you need to be a certain type of person to do it. You know the type, extrovert, confident, suited, businessman. It’s no easy task just talking to strangers, talking about you and what you represent, and then letting the other person decide if it’s of any use to them. I’m terrible at talking to strangers, my usual conversation piece ends up talking about whatever the weather is doing outside.
So over the last few months, I’ve been making a conscious effort to attend our networking at events where I work, called The Boundary Club. My thought being, if I keep chucking myself in this situation where I meet strangers, I’ll get better at it.
A few unwritten rules I’ve picked up early doors:
1) Dress up smart – You’re representing both yourself and your business, first impressions are key. More than 90% of impressions are made within the first 60 seconds of meeting someone by appearance and body language.
2) Be prepared to talk and listen – Communication is a two-way process, nobody likes people who do too much of either.
3) Bring business cards – You’re not living in the corporate world if you don’t bring business cards.
The way the Boundary Club works, is you have a 3 course sit down meal, which also incorporates a guest speaker and sitting and watching some cricket as a backdrop. It feels quite relaxed, and it helps as when things start to get awkward, you have either the speaker or the sport as a go to in conversation.
The environment is made for networking, a mixture of good food, good speakers, a few jokes from the MC, cricket and a few glasses of wine in the room make the environment quite relaxed. It’s common to just say hello to anyone in the room and introduce yourself, I still find this odd, but I’m getting there.
I’m not sure if there is a set way to network, but I just used it to chat to people. Chat to people with some similar interests, if I don’t really know the industry they work in, just ask and use it as a tool to learn. Conversation is much easier when you actually take in interest in what they are talking about. I found myself talking about beauty therapies, the best way to keep my skin great to talking about civil service motoring insurance. I’m still no expert on either.
I’ve always told myself I’m rubbish at meeting new people, and it goes back to last week’s fire walk, you tell yourself something enough your mind sends out that energy. I’m no master at networking, but I’ve had enough random conversations over the years to be okay chatting to new people. The stigma that goes with talking to new people is something that is getting easier, and will only improve as I do more of this. The brain really is fascinating.