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Networking your way to the top

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Networking is an oft-overlooked art for small business owners. While being proficient at your job is of utmost importance, networking can give your business the little kick in the pants it needs to boost success.

While small-talk with a room full of strangers may not be your idea of an ideal night out, importance of networking is paramount – it can help build relationships between businesses, forge meaning alliances, and attract new clients and customers. Rest assured, there are a few skills that you can develop to make these networking events less grating and, with practice, you’ll become a lingual master.

Become a convo connoisseur

Networking is not business card Jenga.

People gravitate towards those that make them feel acknowledged, heard and significant – use this to your advantage when networking. Seek to cultivate a network of meaningful relationships with those you meet, rather than establishing a business-only relationship.

Be the risk-taker

Don’t be shy – make the first move and start up a conversation with a stranger, rather than waiting for somebody else to approach you. Others will be grateful you shouldered the burden. Remember that networking events are for meeting new people and others will appreciate you taking the initiative.

Be the leader

Assume the role of host and take responsibility for the conversation. This means proactively coming up with topics to discuss, introduce people to others and move the conversation past pregnant pauses (which supposedly happen every seven minutes, but are likely more frequent at networking events!).  

Be prepared

While a natural conversationalist will make the conversation look effortless, there are some sincere efforts you can put in to seem well-versed, well-read and well-rounded. Good conversation, while natural, requires preparation.

Here are six tips to better equip you for social events:

  1. Read one local newspaper and one national newspaper a day, even if it’s just the headline and first paragraph.
  2. Read industry newsletters and professional journals.
  3. Look to your role models. How do they act in social situations and how does their body language indicate that they are a leader? Apply what you observe to your own mannerisms.
  4. Use humour, but ensure it is appropriate and in good taste. Needless to say, any jokes about transgender, one-legged midgets are not networking-friendly material.
  5. Listen actively. Use good eye contact and open and receptive body language. Something as simple as nodding and smiling or asking relevant questions will show your interest and empathy.
  6. Try new things, master new skills and participate in activities beyond your normal level of expertise or interest. The more you do with your life, the more you can contribute to any conversation. Discussing your previous evening watching Seinfeld reruns will only get you so far.  

Most importantly, at any networking event, make the effort – people respond to confidence and participation. And remember, the more networking events you attend, the easier it will become. With practice, you’ll become an expert at networking.

So, if you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Thursday, August 05, 2010

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