Networking is a necessity. It is not an option in life. Whether you like it or not, it’s essential to have the ability to build relationships continuously. Networking is about finding ways of serving and being helpful to others. Networking is about getting network credits and storing them into your network bank. Overtime, these credits, in the form of relationship, would yield returns not just in monetary form but also in the form of open doors, advice and other valuable returns.
Some of us were taught not to talk to strangers when we were growing up and as a result some people are shy or afraid of strangers. Strangers are seen to be dangerous because they may take something from you.
The rest of us were taught to be nice, friendly and kind to strangers, but that may not be good because you may expect people to like you and they may not. Either way, networking is affected by our own experiences growing up.
In addition to the way we were brought up, many people often struggle to network because of a lack of education. No one teaches it in school, and when you go out to learn it, most networking trainers tend to be extroverts who find networking easy. They aren't necessarily good networkers just because they are chatty. In fact, many people who think they are great with people and become networking trainers, are not necessarily good at networking or even teaching it to the vast majority who may not enjoy approaching strangers and talking for long periods of time.
Like the vast majority you may also not click with some people immediately, but this can be adjusted. Networking isn’t just for extroverts. It’s an art that everyone can develop. I’ve organised over 1000 events with groups of 30 to 25,000 people because I love sharing about networking and how to transform the way we network today.
Networking is about connecting, making new friends, being inspired, and helping others to achieve their goals while achieving yours too.
There are different ways of contributing to a relationship depending on your industry, hobbies and country but ultimately you can learn to value add to conversations. I was born in Israel, grew up in Canada and England, I’ve lived in Russia and now in Singapore. Every culture is so different when it comes to networking. There are many fears and misunderstandings regarding networking that can be daunting to navigate but I’ll give you practical tips to apply across cultures.
Now, how can you start transforming the way you network?
You can’t be transactional and immediate about your interactions. It’s a relationship that you invest in for the long term. A networking event is a place to meet people and build relationships. In our social media age, everyone wants immediate results, but that isn’t the case with networking. We need to approach networking events with a long-term relationship building mindset.
There is a huge misconception about networking that I need to address before I teach you how to network.
Selling or promoting yourself is the worse reason to network. While networking is an option when you’re looking for a mentor, partner, investor or even a wife, if your approach at the event is purely transactional, then you won’t get far.
Many people think that if they share all about themselves, their company, and convince others about why they are so amazing, they’ll get an immediate return in that exchange. For example, some people get 7 name cards after an event and the next morning, they send these 7 people a 2-page proposal about why their company is the best and some even offer 50% off if they act on the deal. This is awful! That’s not how networking is supposed to be.
So how do you network better?
If you don’t give others a chance to speak, they won’t enjoy the conversation with you. Don’t go on about how great you are or try to impress people. You will stand out if you ask good questions. That’s when people will notice and like you.
Be interested in what others share and ask pleasant, meaningful questions. You can start with broader questions and move to more personal questions while keeping it professional. I share more specific questions and ways of diverting the conversation in my other e-book “Steer Networking Conversations”.
The kind of energy you carry is important. You need to share good energy to create positive conversations by holding the right mindset about the people you interact with. You can have a positive attitude and perception of others by having what I like to call a “how can I help you” and an “I like you” mindset.
How does it work? Before you talk to someone, you need to say something positive about them in your head right away.
Start by saying a few empowering statements about others by complimenting their looks, appearance, or demeanour in your mind. It’s important that you do this in your mind before you engage with them. This mindset you have about them will spill over into your conversation with them and they’ll feel your energy. As you then begin speaking with them, have a “how can I help you” mindset by thinking of ways you can offer them your help or value add to them.
You are teaching yourself to like the person more. This is crucial to networking because -
Life is like a mirror. If you like someone, they will like you. If you mistrust someone, they will mistrust. When you catch yourself and learn to be both positive and kind, you reflect that back on yourself.
If you had a bad day, a crazy week, or just got into a fight, don’t attend an event with those emotions. Others can feel this negative energy, and it creates a bad atmosphere which results in bad conversations. When you attend an event, you need to have a positive attitude and be ready to connect with people. If you’re able to put your day aside and psych yourself up, you’ll find that you can improve your energy for the event.
Not all events are made equal. If you go to a paid networking event by a professional organiser, you can gain a lot of value from it.
When you attend a paid event, about 80% of the responsibility is on the organiser because they can create an environment that is easier to network in like a wine tasting, a new four-course menu, a unique art gallery or the first viewing of something interesting. At such events, there are some available topics of discussion like the wine, food, and art which then helps the conversation to be a lot more enjoyable and easier.
At a paid event, the location is likely to be more spacious and conducive which also adds to the experience of networking. So if you value networking enough, you should pay to attend networking events. You may not be in the position to invest, but free events may not have the best elements to network with.
To view the full content, sign up for a free account and unlock 3 free podcasts, power reads or videos every month.