"With today’s digital and electronic age, the idea of face to face networking must seem a little ‘old hat’. However, when reading through a recent edition of Pride Magazine I was reminded of how useful and influential having a good network of people can be.
It is a commonly held believe that for people to get ahead they need good mentors and networks around them. It has, also, been suggested that one of the reasons that women find it difficult to forge into the higher echelons of business is because they do not establish these networks at the same rate and that their networks do not have the same influential status as their male counterparts. I am not entirely sure I fully subscribe to that point of view; however, I think that mastering the art of good networking skills will always be useful.
So according to the Pride Mag here are some do and don’ts of networking…
· Be presentable and prepared. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression and you want that impression to say exactly what you want and not leave any room for doubt. So when getting ready make sure you are dressed and presented in a way that truly reflects the role that you have or are aspiring to.
· Maintain warm body language. If you are not sure about the power of body language take it from me we leak messages through our body all the time. Albert Mehrabian states that the power of communication through our bodies is far greater than the words that we use. So keep your posture strong but your gaze and smile welcoming. The old adage that crossing your arms means that you are unapproachable may be true when first meeting people. If a folded arm is your position of comfort, re-adjust until people get to know you, then it will not have the same impact.
· Be natural. As best as you can in an unfamiliar situation, just be you. Remind yourself that you are just as good as anyone else there. Being authentic lets people see who you are. It is also more likely to attract people to you. There is nothing more off putting than someone affecting a personality that really doesn’t fit.
· Approach groups wisely. Old-fashioned manners ‘like grandma’ would approve of will be very useful when you are trying to break into a group or become involved in a conversation. Have a look around; two people in intense conversation may not wish to be disturbed so join a slightly larger group, where several simultaneous conversations may be occurring. Be gentle in your approach and wait for an appropriate moment to introduce yourself. Remember you are there to network so don’t make it all about you… you already know who you are.
· Spread yourself. Networking is about meeting as many people as you can, so if you have come with a friend for moral support don’t stick with that person. Maybe have a side bet of who can meet the most people and the winner buys coffee (or a glass of red…whatever is the best and most appropriate for you).
· Be afraid of CEOs. No matter what the grade or status of an individual we are all human. If, people in authority intimidate you, give yourself the challenge of approaching them. My suggestion would be that they are not the first person that you talk to. Try out your patter on some other less imposing folk and build up your confidence. Remember the goal is to be remembered for the right reasons.
· Be a time hog. Learn the art of skilfully bringing a conversation to a close and the cues of when someone else is doing it to you. Be prepared to move onto the next contact with grace and ease. Keep the conversation light before moving onto business, be inquisitive and alert to how these connections can be mutually beneficial.
· Forget you table manners. I know that this one might seem a little patronising but you need to think about how you will manage to have a conversation and also juggle a drink and your nibbles. A nice tip from Pride is to not hold your cold drink in your right hand as it makes a handshake cold and a little damp.
· Be too selective. Don’t be seduced by the extroverts in the room. They may be the best at putting you at ease but you may miss a great contact if you spend all of your time with those who make the most noise.
So, there you have it Pride Magazines dos and don’ts for networking with a twist from me. I hope that you find them useful."