Nifty Networking

Nifty networking is not just about hand shakes and business deals. Meeting like minded people, and forming meaningful connections is good for business, its also good for life! In this blog, I’ll talk about finding networking opportunities, what to expect from a new connection and how to make the most of the people you meet!

There are many definitions available for networking but has my favourite. They describe it as:

Forming business connections and contacts through informal social meetings!, June, 2021

I like this the most because it allows for networking to happen at almost any time, and in any place. There are so many opportunities for meaningful connections to be formed, and yet we often just focus on planned meetings. If I had defined it though, I’d drop the word business.

Traditional Meet-ups

Don’t get me wrong, meetings, online and offline, are great places to network. I’ve made some great connections with people I’ve met this way. They are usually structured in some way, and everyone there is a potential business contact.

There might be a speaker brought in to pass on a few tips, or to inspire you, and you might be given an opportunity to speak to the group about yourself and what you do. There might be breakout groups that you can chat more closely with.

If its face to face, you might find yourself freestyling it a bit and “working” the room. Or maybe you’ll find yourself in sat a corner reading the back of the menu!. Some of these meetings are more formal and structured than others, and you’ll find some organisations can have very strict rules! You may have experienced one or two at some point!

Nifty Networking is not just about handshakes and business deals!

Organic Networking

The reality is that networking is not just for meetings. Away from the business cards and handshakes, I’ve made some pretty awesome connections and in some very random places. I’ve met people in yoga classes, the wine shop, on Facebook, and even in Tesco’s! I’ve made some great friends, some great connections, and I’ve had interactions that have gone nowhere (honestly, a lot of them were like this).

The trick is to stop “networking”, and just start chatting (and listening). Very few of us were born natural networkers. I know I wasn’t. I used to be the one sat in the corner, reading the menu, by the way! But, we are all good at talking. We’ve been practising since we were a toddler! And the great news is that people mostly love to talk about themselves. If you get into a conversation with someone, online or offline, just ask them about themselves, get to know them a bit. Just because they might not have their own business, or one that can benefit yours, doesn’t mean they are not worth a conversation.

You never know what you might learn by asking someone about themselves. You might discover a new pain point your business can solve, or find out that they are looking for a service that your friend can offer, or maybe they know someone who can help you, or maybe they are just a really interesting person to chat to, or maybe… you won’t know for another couple of months. Of course, they could just be really boring and it goes nowhere.

Be patient

Really good networking doesn’t always have instant results, in fact, in my experience, it rarely does. I once discovered a lady at my yoga class was a literary agent. It was over a year before I took advantage of that connection. Up until then she was just someone I exchanged occasional light banter with! But I never forgot who she was.

Years later, I still recommend her to other authors. I didn’t try to make her a business contact, I didn’t try to sell to her, or her to me, we just created a meaningful connection and years later it became a business one too.

This happens a lot, it can take months to build relationships with people that you, or someone you know, might do business with. I posted tips in a group for weeks before people started recommending me and my business to others. Building that trust took time, that’s all.

Here’s my top tips:

  • Stop “Networking”
  • Start simple. Look out for businesses selling their stuff in Facebook groups and just ask them about their business/stuff!
  • Look out for people that “get you” you’ll make lasting connections with them more easily.
  • Be yourself! If you’re not you, then people won’t “get you” and both of your time will be wasted.
  • Forget about making sales. If you are in it for “the deal” then you’ll mostly be disappointed.
  • Ask questions to learn about others – and listen to the answers!
  • Be patient. It might take months or years to see the fruits of your efforts but when you do, oh boy!.
  • Look for opportunities to help other people. Offer tips and value as often as possible – be the hero!
  • Join groups of like minded people. Consider local interest groups, business support groups , hobby groups, and add value as often as possible.
  • Stay in touch. One meeting won’t make a meaningful connection, use social media to build on what you’ve started.
  • Give more than you take. Support your new business buddies as much as possible and they will support you.
  • Enjoy your new friends. If you don’t make business related contacts, you will make new friends and that’s arguably even better!

What are your top tips for networking?

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