Friday 20 January 2017

Are you Missing the Point of Networking at an Event?

This week's blog is by Rachel Halsall, one of our Women Returners Coaching team.

One of my favourite ways to spend time is to work with coaching clients to design their networking strategy. 

After having had the pleasure of providing coaching sessions at the Women Returners Conference, it struck me that many of the women I spoke to were missing the point about what networking at an event is all about and what the benefits can be. What I heard in a number of these coaching conversations was a belief that networking is about walking up to somebody you don’t know, reciting an elevator pitch and then asking them for a favour, an opportunity or a job.

Whilst it's true that your next opportunity may well come about through your wider network, this is not what networking is about at all.

What is event networking about?

To ‘network’ at an event is ...
  • To walk into a room of people and to engage in interesting conversations; 
  • To find out more about another person and their perception and ideas;  
  • To enjoy social interaction in person rather than through social media; 
  • To share knowledge;  
  • To build new contacts and widen your network of interesting people;  
  • To find out what is going on in your or other sectors;  
  • To make introductions to help interesting people meet other interesting people.
At the Conference I saw that some great conversations were happening all around the room, and that new relationships were being developed. I hope that these conversations continued after the event. Staying in touch and nurturing that connection is essential - in most cases it is through this on-going effort, rather than the initial introduction, that you will see the advantages of having a great network pay off. 

How can you get better at event networking?

You can get better at this form of networking, and enjoy it more, simply by getting out there, attending some events and asking other people some questions. Practice listening intently to somebody about their take on things. Be interested in what you are hearing rather than worrying about whether or not you are interesting. Use the kind of listening skills that you would use on a first date and you will find that you remember much more detail than if you're focusing on saying something impressive.

If I am paying attention to you, listening to you, enjoying your company, learning from you and sharing my knowledge with you, you are more than likely to want to stay in touch with me, to ask me for help and to help me should I ask. This is the point of networking. 

To finish with an easy tip: Smile when you enter the room and turn your ears on!

Posted by Rachel, Women Returners

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