Networking lets you put your best face forward. Just put yourself out there and good things happen.
What is Networking?
It is the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
It is creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?”
Networking involves building and maintaining contacts and relationships with other people. The personal networks which you accumulate over time, both socially and professionally can be an invaluable resource. This applies whether you are an entrepreneur looking to start and grow your own new venture, whether you are looking for a job, or working on a project where external ideas and input can help. For entrepreneurs, a contact made at a purely social event may ultimately help to provide you with one of the key ingredients for the start of the business.
What Does Networking Mean In Business?
Networking is a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures.
It is important to be good at networking if you really want to move ahead in today’s competitive business world
Different Types Of Networks
There are a range of different types of networks from which you can draw:
The social network – Your own personal network of contacts made informally through social or non-business activities. These contacts may comprise family, friends, former work colleagues, contacts made through university, etc.
The professional network – Contacts made through business activities including accountants, lawyers and so on.
Artificial networks – The networks set up within business communities which are open to new members, trade associations, professional institutions, etc. Here some examples of general sites where you can network with other people: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
Top Networking Skills You Should Have (And How to Improve Them)
Networking skills—like communication, active listening and social skills—are extremely valuable to have in both professional and personal environments and are particularly coveted by employers, as all successful businesses depend on networking. This said, it is not enough to simply have great networking skills. You also need to know how to market them in a resume.
In this article, we discuss what networking skills are, share examples of networking skills and offer advice for how you can improve your networking skills. We also offer recommendations for how you can highlight these skills during the interviewing process.
Is Networking A Skill?
Networking is possibly one of the most important skills for entrepreneurs and is one which you have the opportunity to practice on.
Networking involves building and maintaining contacts and relationships with other people.
What Are Networking Skills?
Networking skills are the competencies you need to have to maintain professional or social contacts. Networking is a critical skill in sales, business development and a number of other industries. Networking skills are necessary to make and develop relationships with new contacts and promote something of value.
Important Networking Skills To Have
No matter what profession you’re in, networking is the fuel that accelerates success. Not only is it useful for learning directly from individuals you meet, but the benefits of association and growing your own authority are just as powerful. Whilst many of us aren’t sure where to start, what to say when we connect with someone or how to maintain that relationship; what is important is .
There are different skills that you can practice to become more effective at networking. They include:
Communication, Active Listening, Social Skills, Public Speaking Skills, Nonverbal Communication, Interpersonal Skills, Empathy, Positivity, Humor, and Focus.
COMMUNICATION is the act of exchanging information from one person to another. It involves speaking and empathizing with others to correctly receive the message that the other person is sending and responding accordingly. When networking, communication is essential in order to develop and maintain relationships with others.
ACTIVE LISTENING – Another important networking skill is active listening. To get people excited about your business and what you’re sharing with them, you need to listen to and understand their needs. Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, nodding your head to show you understand what they’re saying and responding appropriately. Active listening also ensures you’re able to ask the right questions to keep a conversation moving forward.
SOCIAL SKILLS – These are the verbal and nonverbal skills that you use to interact with others. They include not only words but also gestures, body language and your personal appearance. It also includes friendliness, which conveys honesty and kindness. That, in turn, can create trust and understanding, which can build a strong foundation for a new relationship when you’re networking.
PUBLIC SPEAKING SKILLS – Public speaking skills can help you be more comfortable if you find yourself talking to a group of people, particularly at a networking event. Even when you’re just speaking with another person, one-on-one, public speaking skills can help you improve the way you articulate, helping the person you’re speaking with better understand you.
NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION – Nonverbal communication is extremely important when networking. It’s important to be aware of your own body language and any messages you may be sending the person with whom you’re speaking. It’s also beneficial to be able to read the body language of the person with whom you’re speaking. This can tell you if you need to change the way you’re expressing your message or alter something else in your communication style.
INTERPERSONAL SKILLS – These are often referred to as “people skills” and they impact the way you communicate and interact with others. They include a variety of skills, but particularly skills like communicating, attitude and listening.
EMPATHY – Empathy refers to the ability to feel what another person is feeling. Empathy skills are important for networking, as they make others feel that you understand and can relate to their emotions and experiences.
POSITIVITY – A positive attitude is another important networking skill, as others are drawn to those with a friendly, positive demeanor. Positivity can help you develop a strong rapport with others quickly and, in general, help you to be more instantly likable and memorable.
HUMOR – Humor is humanizing and helps people come together on common ground. When used appropriately, humor can draw people to you and eliminate tension, putting people immediately at ease. People with humor also tend to be more approachable.
FOCUS – Focus is also an important networking skill, as it enables you to give the person with whom you’re speaking your full attention. It will help you be an active listener and allow you to better establish a genuine connection.
How To Improve Your Networking Skills
Here are some steps you can take to improve your networking skills:
1. Look Inside You – Take a close look at the network and resources that you already have in place. Don’t overlook the hidden potential that is all around you. Creating new opportunities from pre-existing ones is the most elemental of networking skills.
2. Practice improving communication habits – Improve your networking skills by practicing good communication habits. Maintain eye contact when you’re speaking with someone and nod your head in understanding or agreement. Use simple, straightforward language, ask questions and invite opinions. Pay attention to the body language of the person with whom you’re speaking to ensure they understand and confirm whether they agree or disagree.
3. Ask friends for constructive feedback – Consider asking friends how you’re coming across in conversation. Understanding where you can improve can help you improve your communication style, which can have a big impact on your networking skills.
4. Attend networking events – One of the best ways you can improve your networking skills is to practice them regularly. Attend networking events and focus on building a genuine human connection with the people you meet. Ask questions that show you’re genuinely interested in getting to know the person you’re speaking with and listen closely to the answer while maintaining eye contact. Respond with relevant questions to show you were listening. Focus on the quality of the relationships you’re having rather than the quantity.
5. Communicating Your Message is a means of gaining credibility that is best accomplished through substance, not style. Listening and asking questions helps you build rapport and trust. Practice your communications until you feel confident that your message will come across as genuine and unscripted.
6. Make A Follow-Up – No matter which method you choose, follow up is crucial to your networking effort. Follow up turns a casual contact made at a meeting, party, or event into a potential long-term relationship.
In the end, networking is all about building relationships that are honest, sincere, and of value to both parties. As you work to stay in touch, try to develop relationships that benefit the other party as much as they do you. Build relationships for the long term.
7. Be Nice to Everyone You Meet – I had a boss once who used to say “the very same person that you develop conflict with may be the one you need for support later on down the line.” You never know? Don’t burn any bridges and do your best to find a happy medium when faced with a difficult situation. Look for the win-win. You may not necessarily agree with everyone but you can agree to disagree and move on.
8. Appearance and Grooming – “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” How well you maintain your personal hygiene and how you dress for the occasion speaks volumes without saying one word. You don’t want to be the one that feels out of place. Inquire
9. Introducing Yourself & Your Elevator Speech – Create a working Bio of yourself and memorize it. Who knows you better than you. Be prepared to tell your story on short notice. Your introduction should include your full name. Your elevator speech should include concise information that can be shared in roughly forty-five seconds to one minute. Thank the person for their time when the discussion ends.
10. Be Nice to Everyone You Meet – I had a boss once who used to say “the very same person that you develop conflict with may be the one you need for support later on down the line.” You never know? Don’t burn any bridges and do your best to find a happy medium when faced with a difficult situation. Look for the win-win. You may not necessarily agree with everyone but you can agree to disagree and move on.
Practical Approach To Attending Business Meetings
It is important that you broaden your range to build new contacts and for this you will need to develop and hone some good networking skills. You may have attended events in the past and wondered how some individuals seem to effectively ‘work the room’ and talk to large numbers of people and swap business cards – with practice this is not so difficult to achieve!
Top tips To Broaden Your Contacts
One of the most important tip is having a one-minute ‘elevator pitch’ about your business idea or a tag line about yourself (a few words you can say after your name by way of introduction). Being able to articulate your business opportunity in a short space of time is essential and many of our programmes involve sessions on pitching your ideas.
- Check the delegate/attendees list beforehand and decide who you particularly want to speak to and what you want to talk to them about.
- Have a one-minute ‘elevator pitch’ ready to describe your distinctive competence. Practice doing this well before the event – you will avoid hiccups on the day. If you feel awkward, go with someone who is not and ask them to help you.
- Arrive early and check the name tags to see who else has arrived.
- Avoid spending too much time at the bar or in dead areas where it is hard to move onto another person you want to talk to if you get bored.
- If you do feel trapped, find someone else that the person you are with might enjoy speaking to.
- Ask others to introduce you to the people you want to meet.
- Get drinks for people who are having a good conversation.
REMEMBER . . . Quality Over Quantity
Many people think that networking means meeting as many people as possible. That’s not so. Making a few meaningful connections is often better than working an entire room. If you can have three or four deeper conversations, then you and the people you meet will be more likely to remember the interaction.
So, to conclude . . .
Cultivate Your “Power” Contacts
As much as many people may not like to hear it, “All contacts are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
You’re going to come across people who become power contacts as you become more connected with those in your industry. These people will be the ones who are constantly introducing you to new/interesting contacts, referring you to others for more work, and just generally pushing your business forward.