What is it with Networking? How should I make those vital connections?

How many times have you heard the expression ‘It’s not what you know but who you know that counts!”?  Or perhaps you have heard references to the ‘Old Boy’s network’! Such a network is often blamed for an apparent high proportion of former pupils of public schools (usually male) in high status positions in government, business, and the professions. Networking has a long and somewhat chequered history.

I suppose for many of us in business, we can look back to the trade guilds for our inspiration and, of course, most of us have our professional and trade associations.  Networking has clearly stood the test of time!

At the moment there are a number of well publicised business networking organizations that create models of networking activity that allow the people to build new business relationships.  They are supposed to generate business opportunities at the same time.  So why, oh why, do I feel so uncomfortable when attending what are advertised as networking events.  I’ve thought about the issues and what would work for me and here are the rules I’m going to set myself in the future.

  1. Values – I will be true to myself and not behave at networking events differently to how I behave in the rest of my life.  I will be my usual pleasant self but I will not become an over- ebullient superwoman with a constant and somewhat inane smile on my face!  I will value the people I meet and listen to them, rather than simply seeking an opportunity to promote myself!
  2. Volume – I will attend fewer events that are focussed in my areas of interest.  I will work hard to contribute to them instead of ‘doing the rounds’ like a coach tripper ‘doing’ Europe in ten days – ‘Oh dear is it Venice today or did they say Vienna?’
  3. First View – Most people know by now that first impressions are very hard to undo!  I will show up looking as good as I can.  I usually turn up for work and social events that way anyway, so nothing too challenging there then.  Oh yes, in future, I will trot to the washroom when I arrive to check that the hair is still in place and that I don’t have froth, from the coffee I grabbed on the journey,  still on my bottom lip!
  4. 4. Verify/Research – I will do my best to research the event and who is likely to attend!  If I know who is going I can work out who I would like to meet.  This will save my feet and other people’s time! Meeting one or two like minded people is likely to be far more use than exchanging business cards like confetti and never following up – see below!
  5. Vision not version – I will share who I am and, if it is appropriate, my vision for the future and what I want to deliver.  I will not simply roll out a version of an advert for my services.  If I think I can add value, then I will say so!
  6. Vital – I will follow up! There is no point in spending time at networking events if you don’t actually follow up.  An entry in your contacts database is of limited use!  You need to reinforce your first meeting with something more substantial as a follow up.  Send the contact details you mentioned!  Find that book you referred to on Amazon and send the link.  If nothing else, send a thank-you note for their time and the interesting conversation.  Otherwise you are in danger of just becoming another name in what is probably a very long list!

So I am going to make a fresh start!  I shall be out there following valiantly my list above.  I hope I meet you on my travels in where was it?  Vienna, Venice, Oh Dear!

7 thoughts on “What is it with Networking? How should I make those vital connections?”

  1. Hi Wendy – one of the major issues that I come across as a coach and a recruiter is women’s reluctance to network strategically – for themselves. We will advocate passionately for all sorts of causes and issues, but less frequently to self promote. People deal with individuals they like and trust . Whatever you do will be perfectly fine ( including your hair!) . Take that leap! There are so many who know you for all your good qualities! Share your experience with other women and let them know it was Ok! If your coach trip takes you to Brussels – so much the better!

    1. Thanks Dorothy – it is great to have your confidence and your encouragement! Hope my coach trip does bring me to Brussels one day!

      1. Hi Wendy

        As a seasoned networker I was very interested to read your article. Many moons ago when “networking” was a rude word, yes, it was….. but more of that in a moment – I looked long and hard to find an alternative word, that is one that can’t be misinterpreted. The reason it was a rude word was because of how people, in those days mostly the guys in the Old Boy’s network, well we are talking 12 years ago, and things have changed hugely since then, haven’t they? would insist on selling. If you couldn’t give business/buy their product/service immediately they didn’t want to talk to you.

        I could wax on for hours, but coming back to your article Wendy. Key words stand out to me. They are

        1) Be yourself – people buy people.
        2) Be selective – effective networking is about building relationships to create trust. That can’t be done by hopping in and out of different events, it takes effort
        3) Dress – as if you are going to meet your most important client, because you could be!
        4) Research – but also be open, you never know who knows who!
        5) Value – again, be yourself – you will have value, and people will value that
        6) Follow up – how true that it is time wasted if you don’t
        + one 7) Appointments – where there’s synergy, make the 1:1s there and then, but only if it comes naturally, otherwise you’re back to the hard sell again.

        So you sound spot on to me! Enjoy and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

        1. Thanks Jackie – it is great to have your comments. At the end of the day networking is about building relationships. I look forward to meeting you again soon.

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  3. A great reminder of the ZEN of Networking, Wendy. Networking with simplicity, elegance and grace!
    Like a Lady 🙂
    I will keep that in mind as I’m planning my networking events for February…
    We also have fabulous networking evenings in Lyon, come and see us at the Women’s professional Networking Group!

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