The Secret to Networking

13 March 2014 09:09

If you have ever asked anyone what they do for a living, then you have officially networked.  The dictionary definition defines networking as "a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest". (Dictionary.com)

When I started my own business in 2007, I joined several professional industry bodies and some networking groups.  I joined their committees and/or boards in the hope that this would increase my visibility.

I knew I had to do it in order to build the business and, whilst people thought that I was good at it, I was never that comfortable at networking events.  I used to arrange to go with a friend to events just so I didn't feel like the person on the outside looking in.  But I quickly realised that, despite having a fun evening catching up my friend, it defeated the object of me being there.

I struggled to find a group that I was comfortable networking in.  I knew what I wanted; so I decided to start my own group and called it The BoardRoom.

It's lonely when you start your own business - working on your own, trying to keep yourself motivated and focussed.  I was after a collegiate space where I could share my goals or challenges, and get support from other like minded people in the same situation who may have been through the issues. I needed to learn from others.

This is the secret to networking for me: building trust.  You probably aren't going to do business with someone that you don't trust but how do you start to trust someone before you do business with them?  The answer: get to know what makes them tick; support their goals and see how they support you.  You'll then also have the confidence to refer them to people in your network without having necessarily used their services because you know that they'll treat your network fairly.

However, this isn't the only  way to network.  In the 7 years that I've been doing business, I've noticed that many of my clients have come from my friends' network and through my social activities.  It's easier to build rapport with people who you already have a shared goal with, be it in sport, music, theatre, food tasting, etc.

The way that people network is different for every person.  You have to find your own style.  This is an excellent article from the BBC about networking.  However, I don't believe you can lump all women into one category and all men into another.  There is plenty of cross over.  I think the main difference between a good networker and an average networker is the number of people we get ourselves in front of.

I find the contrived environment of a "networking event" intimidating as I'm not that good at just going up to a person or group of people and saying "Hi, I'm Chris, what's your name".  But it is that easy. And practice makes perfect.


Christopher Brooks has been Owner/Director of First Train since 2007 and Partner/Director in a new outdoor-activity-based learning venture called Plain Sailing since 2013.



 

  

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