It’s time to take Networking to the Next Level
Now that we’re almost in the final quarter of the year and nearing on the silly season, it’s had me thinking about networking and all of the events to come. When I started out as a broker, I was religiously attending networking events and have learnt a few things about what works and what doesn’t. And I know, the word networking gives most people shivers down their spine, but these tips are hopefully going to take the ‘work’ out of networking for you.
Don’t be on time
I’m a stickler for being on time, but when it comes to networking events I find it’s best to show up a few minutes late. This is because initially, it can be a little awkward when there aren’t many people around. You’ll find most people are watching the door for the next person to come in and this can make you want to bail out just as quickly as you arrived in. Turn up later on when the room will have filled out a bit and when the environment starts to feel a bit more relaxed.
Top Broker Tip: The longer the event, the later you can be. Usually, about 15 minutes to half an hour is enough though, be careful you’re not too late because then it might not even be worth attending.
Start with one person and help them
Have you noticed a guest standing on the sideline, looking a bit awkward and unsure about whom to talk to? I always approach these people first if I’m not feeling so confident to help me warm up a bit. Also, sometimes it can be comforting knowing that others are in the same position as you. You’ll also be helping them get into the conversation and they’ll be grateful you approached them.
Top Broker tip: Skim the sidelines to start a conversation!
Do your homework
Know your reason as to why this event is going to help you and what’s beneficial about it. For example, if you’re looking to meet more referral partners or clients, get to know their business and look at the people attending so that if you’ve got any common connections you can bring it up in conversation.
Top Broker tip: Check the event attendees and figure out if there’s anyone attending that you’d really like to have a chance to meet. Do your research from there.
Keep the news on your mind
If you’re worried about running out of conversation topics, read the news that morning and find three to four topics you can build into the conversation. Asking for someone’s opinion on a topic is a great way to help them feel comfortable with you and build a rapport much quicker than usual.
Top Broker tip: Check websites like ABC, Sydney Morning Herald or BBC for the latest news.
Stay focused on your conversation
Have you ever been mid-conversation with someone only for them to constantly be looking at their phone or away into the distance at someone else? Well, how did that make you feel? Listening is a huge part of networking.
The best way to show someone that you are interested in what they are saying is by actually listening to them. Even if you say very little, you will be remembered for being both engaged in the conversation and showing genuine interest in them.
Top Broker tip: Eye contact and nonverbal body language go a long way. Don’t forget about this.
Get your elevator pitch ready
Nothing brings me down more than starting a conversation with someone only for them to be flat and negative about what they do. If you’re not excited about what you do and how you can help your clients, then why should they be too?
Choose your words wisely, even simple things like asking someone how they are… Think about someone who responds ‘I’m absolutely fantastic!’ compared to the other ‘Oh you know, getting there…’ How does each of those responses make you feel?
Top Broker tip: Sum up what do you in one to two lines, so that when someone asks you, your response is succinct and helps them understand how you differ from others in the industry.
Ask open-ended questions and help them!
Ask questions that are relevant to the person you are talking to and aim for open-ended questions to keep the conversation going. Avoid questions that warrant a yes or no response.
Top Broker tip: Consider questions about the industry and pain points they’re experiencing, which could be a good opportunity to open them up for you to offer solutions.
It’s all in the follow-up
So you’ve met six people at the event, swapped details and chat about business opportunities with them. But the problem is, most people never remember to follow them up after that.
It’s critical that the next day you reach out to your new contacts so that you can begin to nourish the relationship. Once you have a strong relationship, the business will continue from there.
Top Broker tip: Set a reminder in your calendar the next day at 10am to follow up those who you met the night before.
So with the silly season ahead of us and many networking events to come, make sure that you take your networking to the next level with these ideas.
More often than not people don’t realise that for effective networking, you don’t even need to stay for the entire event. Sometimes even just attending for half an hour can be enough.
Remember, just like everything, practice makes perfect. So keep on attending, meeting people and getting to know those in the industry to build your network even further.