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Networking Not Working?

I’m going to confess something here, although if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, this probably won’t come as a surprise and might simply confirm what you’ve already learned about me. I’m fascinated by people – by my clients, my suppliers and my colleagues. I love the wide range of personalities and views that make every individual unique and I really do relish hearing the often completely diametric ideas different people have on the very same thing.  

Because I’m an inveterate networker myself and have proved over and over how effective it can be, I’m always a bit saddened when I come across people who don’t see its value. ‘Oh yes,’ they’ll say, ‘Tried that once or twice, didn’t work for me, bit of a waste of time really.’ Sadly, they’ve summed up precisely why it didn’t work.  

Networking, generally speaking, is best viewed as a long-term investment as opposed to a short-term solve-all solution. It’s certainly about gaining new clients but, prior to that, it’s about building relationships with others in similar, complementary or completely different businesses. I don’t know whether you agree with me, but I think one of the most important facets of meeting people at a networking event is that everyone’s there with a similar agenda. This means conversations are immediately focused, not just small talk and the person you’re speaking to is just as interested in what you do as you are in them. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule when you come across those more interested in looking over your shoulder to see who else is on the horizon. Unsurprisingly, those are the very people who are ‘trying it once or twice’ and who will go away convinced networking never worked for them! 

I like to arrive at a networking meeting with a target in mind of connecting five people I’ll meet in that room with people or services they’re specifically looking for. I also often find it helpful to use a slightly different approach to the standard, ‘Hello, and what do you do?’ It’s polite and to the point, but people can get tired of hearing the same phrase so, if I don’t know anyone at the meeting, I’ll have a look round and pick someone with the nicest shoes or a person wearing a colour I love. I’ll go over, say how great they look and then introduce myself. It’s a far nicer way of starting a conversation. And let’s face it, nobody ever minds a compliment.    

So yes, networking works well for me, and has been hugely valuable personally as well as to my business. It’s given me the opportunity of meeting people I possibly would never otherwise have come across and whilst the quantifiable business I’ve acquired is enormously important, so too is the support and input I’ve gained. And considering networking is an activity I enjoy so much, it’s been a double bonus to now find myself a finalist in the Oxfordshire Venus Awards for Networker of the Year.