At the IEP networking events we are engaging more and more people who don’t often get a chance to network. So for those leaving their comfort zone behind, these tips may help you get the most out of the IEP networking opportunities.
Most people aren’t comfortable about approaching strangers and starting a conversation. If you feel this way, remember that virtually everyone else in the room feels the same. Just take a deep breath, smile and introduce yourself to someone. Talk about the location, the agenda, something in the news, and if you can’t think of anything else just ask where they are from and what they do … it’s easy!
Likewise, if you see someone standing alone doing a great impression of a wallflower, bring them into your conversation. They’ll be grateful to you and you’ll have created a good first impression by being friendly and open. Just ask if they want to join you, tell them what you were talking about, and off you go!
To give yourself a bit of confidence, develop a concise description of who you are and what you do so you are ready to introduce yourself to new people. Most people don’t like talking about themselves so having a quick intro prepared can help you relax. Think about your unique selling points and what people may be interested in knowing about you or your organisation. Once you’ve used your intro a few times you can refine it until it rolls off your tongue like the networking pro you are!
Networking is about building new contacts, so don’t spend lots of time in the company of people you already know. By all means, have a quick chat with them to maintain the relationship, but spend the majority of your time getting to know new contacts.
Networking is about building relationships, getting to know, like and trust others. By all means talk about your organisation and its services but use the opportunity to understand more about the people in your network, where they are coming from, what’s important to them. Learn that, and you learn who you can help, and who can help you.
Provide REAL value
Share your passion and enthusiasm with others and join in whole-heartedly with discussions, but also think of what else you can share with the people you connect with. Do you have some useful web links or tools you can send them after the event? Do you have a useful connection you can introduce them too? If you can’t personally help someone, do you have a contact that could? Providing real value to other people will help them remember you and seek you out in the future.
If you have something to say, don’t be shy! IEP members are there to help and support each other. If you’re looking for information, need help with a problem, support with a project, or have a particular success or good practice you feel other members would benefit from, ask the event facilitator for a couple of minutes to address the audience. IEP networking events are run by members for members so take control. Networking events are a great opportunity to get your voice heard.
Finally, above all else….
Enjoy Yourself - Networking isn’t meant to be hard work!
Top Networking Tips
- Smile – most of us respond to a smile with a smile, and that’s all you need to start the ball rolling.
- Small talk is good – networking is NOT selling. It’s about learning about people. The more you learn about other people the more full and effective networks you will establish.
- Listen actively – networking is a two way process. Keep eye contact, nod, and ask questions that show your interest.
- Remember names – the easiest trick is to use the person’s name as you talk to them. Usually three uses in a conversation will embed their name in your memory eg ‘How do you do, John. That’s interesting, John. Nice to have met you, John.’
- Exchange details – If you have business cards remember to bring them with you. If you don’t have cards, bring a pen and paper so you can jot down your email address or telephone number for people you want to follow up with.
- Keep your promises – if you’ve told someone you’ll email them, ring them or send them something, make sure you do. Write a note of what you’ve agreed in your diary or on their business card so you don’t forget.