Like it or loathe it.
Networking is essential for business success.
A meeting, event or get together was organised weeks,
maybe even months, ago and shortly, you shall be
expected to attend.
Two trains of thought might come into play…
One might be this scheduled networking is squeezed
into the ever populated calendar of other ‘urgent’ and
'must do’ activities and you feel you don’t have enough
time to network.
The other feeling that comes to mind is a more positive one - that it provides you with an opportunity to meet new people, catch up with existing connections and use the event as a ‘development hour’.
Regardless of how you view it, the benefits of networking are more deeply rooted than you might first realise.
Growing Your Business Connections
Believe it or not, you started networking from a very early age.
It’s within you, as a human, to be attracted and drawn to those people with similar interests to your own, those whose values align with yours and generally those people who make you feel good.
This can be evident in the playground.
As a child, you former friendship circles from the start and these are sure to flex and adapt as your network got bigger, your personality developed and the network expanded and contracted as you grew and developed.
As you moved into pre-teen and teenaged years, with more independence afforded to you, you had even more choices to make as to who you connected with and which networking circles you were best suited to.
It is at this time you might have formed firm relationships with a variety of people for different reasons.
You may have had your network of school friends, your teammates from your sports club, the people in the drama or art club and so on.
It is at this time, and beyond, that you were and are now able to recognise that certain personal connections you have may benefit from being introduced to another from a different network that you can help with.
By facilitating this introduction, you are subconsciously developing a proactive role:
You are proving to your two connections that you have listened and heard them as to what they need.
You are acknowledging them and have identified a potential opportunity for them to continue their development.
You are consciously seeking ways to create a better sum of its parts by exploring ways in which this can be achieved.
You are strengthening your own credibility as an entrusted friend or peer who can be regarded as someone who can match people positively.
From the time spent in the playground to adulthood, the premise is the same.
Your networking abilities develop as you gain more experience and growing your business connections is no different.
You undoubtedly meet people wherever you go and by engaging fully with all of those around you, you can grow your business connections by joining the dots and recognising the synergies that could potentially lead to a positive outcome.
How to Make the Most of Your Time
It takes discipline and good time management to achieve the balance of what is important in running a business or developing a professional career.
A recognition that today’s digital age can be used to your advantage, especially for networking, is key and working out how to do it effectively is going to be the difference between it being helpful or a waste of time for you.
A digital world is certainly time saving in many ways.
Online chats and video meetings saves any travel time taken and the cost of any journeys (and the delays that are associated with public transport).
However, it is essential that you don’t just turn up to a networking meeting without a plan.
You will undoubtedly have a plan, even if it is subconscious, which you should bring to any networking meeting.
This plan is likely to change with time and how your life’s developments (both business and personal) are going at that particular time.
You might want to promote something, if may be that you are seeking advice, it could be that you would like to collaborate with a particular person.
Whatever you need at the time, it is good practice to plan for it before any networking event in order to get the most out of the time you spend there.
What are your current goals?
Who would you like to meet?
How shall you present yourself?
What is your CTA (Call To Action)?
What have you got to offer?
How can you do that effectively?
These are only a handful of ideas that you may wish to explore before any meeting; and are quite often concepts that are automatically registered in your mind without much thought in any case.
By thinking about them more consciously, it can provide clarity in what you aim to achieve through networking.
With your plan in place, your objectives for the networking event is clear and you can save time by skirting around the issue and let people know why you are there.
There is a caveat that goes with this piece of advice.
Networking is most definitely a two way street...
You should not go in there to shout about what you need and want and then leave. That is unlikely to get you anywhere.
Listening and hearing everyone that you speak with in a networking meeting is likely to build trust and credibility with a relationship building exercise forming.
Asking them what they would like and need; and how you might be able to help them will
open the doors to them, in return, to hear you out.
By paying attention to everyone and what they have to say will allow you to identity who it is worthwhile meeting again on a one to one basis.
Exchanging contact details and making sure that a follow-up of your exchange is going to keep the meeting relevant. By doing that promptly after every networking event proves to the other person that you did enjoy meeting them and are interested in taking things further.
Whilst a follow-up message to suggest a further meeting should take place soon after the initial interaction, the next meeting should not take place straight away.
Give yourself time to review and reflect what the initial conversation was about, how you were drawn in and why you were keen to explore the discussion further.
By planning again, your time is best utilised with your thought process and ideas recorded so that the relationship can be built upon with the consideration it deserves.
Relationship building takes time and networking should not be seen as a quick fix to solve a problem or secure new business.
An authentic and sincere approach can reward you with the most unlikely surprises with the key factor being constant.
Time will be saved if you network as you, not what you perceive others to want you to be. That is never going to end well.
It may never be the people you actually meet and spend time at networking events that you end up working with. In fact, it is often the case that you don’t.
What you will find is it is those people that you invest your time with, who get to know you, who will recommend you to two or three people and this is where the networking web grows.
Time should be spent networking with like-minded people who you feel are credible. They are your potential sales agent, your personal crier, the ultimate rooftop shouter.
Making the most of your time networking is a long game.
Sowing the seeds with due care and attention will certainly reap many rewards that are both planned and unexpected.
The Importance of Networking in Today's Digital Age
As people get busier, you included, there is a sense of placing importance on certain things over others.
By way of an example, as a fairly new entrepreneur who has client work to fulfil but is also seeking new business, looking at your diary and seeing a two hour online networking event in the middle of the day sandwiched between client commitments that cannot be ignored might tempt you to bin off the non-paid get together to prioritise the fee paying work.
After all, that’s the reason you are in business, isn’t it?
Yes and no.
The modern world sees your attention being spent across screens and digital platforms more than ever with information being accessible to you than in previous times. Information is now at your fingertips and knowledge can be gained much more easily through technology.
Today’s Digital Age, also known as the Information Age, Computer Age or New Media Age cannot be ignored with the industrialised economy quickly turning to a computerised, knowledge based way of living that demands your attention in your personal and professional life.
Before this era took hold, much of what you see digitally now was formed in different ways:
Adverts in newspapers, on the TV and radio, brochures and catalogues, mail shots and phone calls were more commonly utilised to market things and get people’s messages across.
Nowadays, you can pick up your phone to access pretty much anything you need and want at a touch of a button and a phrase typed into a search engine.
The world of information and knowledge has opened itself up to you digitally.
It doesn’t stop there.
As you you been accustomed (maybe even conditioned?) to adapt yourself to work in this way, digital outreach is more prevalent too.
A text message, group chat or video call proves the digital age is becoming, and even has become, acceptable in how you engage with others.
The very nature in which you carry out your daily life lends itself to socialising in your personal and business life online now.
The social media platforms and online meeting systems may have seemed more impersonal than ‘in person’ meetings but they have firmly gained their place in today’s society.
Notice how ‘in person’ is placed in inverted commas which shows that a) people need to highlight if a meeting is going to be online or not now; and b) it insinuates that face to face meetings are less common these days.
An important point to note is that, whilst many arguments continue about whether or not face to face networking is better than online networking, the digital age of networking is here.
There are advantages and disadvantages for both but because you are well versed in working digitally, networking online can be used to your advantage.
Firstly, you can reach people globally very quickly.
You can find out people’s interests easily with digital social networking and find out, with less time expended, if a particular connection is worth exploring further.
Whether or not you are digitally able or describe yourself as a technophobe, the New Media Age has brought more people together to share ideas, make introductions and build connections in a relatively short time.
Networking in today’s Digital Age is essential in gaining visibility, earning credibility and respect and raising your profile.
As someone once said: “The stage is yours” and there is a pretty large digital one for you to make the most out of.
The Benefits of Networking: Why it's Essential for Business Success
Like it or loathe it.
Networking has been a part of your life, albeit subconsciously for some of you, since you were born.
The next step is to work out how to network like a pro without getting tired and include it regularly into your schedule.
When you come to realise there is more on offer, genuinely, that can be gained from networking, the benefits of networking will be abundant.
These benefits are essential for business success but more importantly, if you can come away feeling the personal benefits of networking, it naturally lends itself to the success of anything you put your mind to.