If you are a small or medium sized business, you will often get an opportunity to network – whether in a networking meeting, or at a social gathering, or perhaps on a golf course – not in my case though, I couldn’t hit that tiny ball for love nor money. In Cyprus of course, those opportunities to network are more frequent, since the great weather for many months of the year will often open up possibilities to meet more people at events and gatherings out in the open with a Keo in hand!
How though are we able to maximise these opportunities? What can we do to make ourselves stand out in a crowd? Well, I have trawled my contacts and my contacts contacts to come up with a few pro, and some left field networking tips that might help;
- Make yourself recognizable. This could mean anything from wearing a company shirt in the company colours to putting on a silly hat – wear some flair!
- If the person you want to meet is someone you already, sort of, know via Social Media, wait for natural break to introduce yourself, and try to have a few topics you know they’re interested in as conversation starters.
- If you’re at a networking meeting and there’s a break in the main presentations and proceedings, don’t look down at your phone, look around and say “Hi” to someone new – even if you’re not really comfortable doing so.
- After you meet someone new, check them out on Social Media – you’re bound to have some contacts in common.
- Be open, and importantly, be genuinely interested in your networking contact’s passions and business. Curiosity breeds Collaboration.
- Don’t treat it like a networking chore. Ask more questions than the person you are talking to and be interested, not just interesting.
- Don’t just stay within the comfortable clique of the people you know. Aim to get outside of your comfort zone and set yourself a target to meet new people.
- Most people are as scared and wary of meeting new people as you are. When people are nervous they drink, so have a drink! (Just don’t overdo it…Ensure you stay upright!)
- Smile. Smile some more. Smile even more. Even if it feels awkward, keep smiling and make eye contact. You’ll seem open and welcoming.
- If you see someone alone, reach out and introduce them to someone else, whether a networking friend or someone you just met five minutes ago!
- On the day, or in first contact afterwards, don’t concentrate too much on work – networking should be fun and not stressful. Remember, you are there to meet and make contacts for the future, not sell on the day.
- Keep the momentum going after the event. Email people you’ve met or contact them directly via Social Media. Don’t make a sales pitch. Just say “Hi” and create a conversation.
A lot of this may seem like common sense or even be second nature for some of you. That being said, you’d be surprised how many people struggle to stand out and be open and welcoming at Networking events. Give it a try, and see how your network expands!
Ricky Shields has been networking since childhood.
Ricky Shields is the mascot and de-facto leader of the ShieldsCreate.com team, who have been helping businesses in Paphos and the UK present their professional face to the world with Websites, Mobile Web, Copy, Content, Graphics, Print, Photography, Video, Signage, Social Media and more, for over a decade.