Once upon a time, the phrase 'networking' only really applied to the professional world and was mostly 'done' at industry events. With the arrival of social media, networking took on a new meaning, moved online and became a highly addictive and mostly social past time.
But don't forget it is still really important to remember how to network in person - particularly when it comes to your career. We're all guilty of not picking up the phone enough and having millions of contacts in our phones but very few friends we actually call. It's risky in your social life and definitely something to beware of in your professional life.
Nothing beats picking up the phone or meeting up for a chat. As recruiters, we are always happy to be discreet and use all methods to contact candidates and clients - but we also really appreciate how much a working relationship is improved if you meet up and or speak on the phone regularly.
As awards season is upon us and as the spring/summer lures us all out for a bit of socialising - we thought we should share our tips on how to make the most of those face to face moments. So here's our guide on how to network successfully - in person.
Develop your strategy
If you go to lots of events, you should be making the most of them. Prepare yourself. Others will be looking to network too and if you have thought about your personal strategy beforehand e.g. why are you there, what are you looking to find out - you will be able to get right into it as soon as someone starts talking to you. You need to have answers for the typical questions - Why are you here? What do you do? What's your background and interest?
Find out who else is going
It's usually pretty easy to find out who will be at an event - particularly if it's an awards do or an industry exhibition or conference. And remember even training courses are networking opportunities, find out who your fellow delegates are and work out who you might like to get to know. Now thanks to LinkedIn, you can also look them up first - people are always flattered when someone knows a bit about them. And don’t forget you may discover you may have some mutual contacts, e.g. ex clients, colleagues - that's a great ice breaker.
Not too early - but early enough to take advantage of a less crowded and noisy environment. People are more likely to remember the friendly face they met at the start of the day than the person they spoke to at the end after too many drinks and a whole day/night of chatter. Also you are less likely to give a good impression if you are a bit tired and tipsy!
Take it easy
Professional relationships are every bit as fragile as personal ones and you don't want to scare someone off by seeming overly keen. And you certainly don't want to appear to be 'after something'. Give it time. Get to know them gradually and build their trust. Rather than seeming desperate for something, you need to appear to be 'giving' and make it clear that you are happy to help, put them in touch with your contacts etc. Be friendly and above all else - honest. If you're not being genuine, you will be found out.
Strike a balance
It is great to ask good and insightful questions - but remember to listen to the answers. Your conversation needs to seem natural - you don't want them to feel like they are being interrogated. By responding well to the answers you will appear interested and will win trust much faster. And you should never 'ask' for a favour the first meeting. Very bad form.
It's ok to move on
Be sensitive to when the conversation is coming to a natural end. They won't be offended if you politely thank them for their time, say it was nice to meet them and explain you need to 'catch up with some of my other contacts'. They will probably be keen to get on and meet some other people too. So just ask them if they would like to stay in touch and swap details if they do.
Follow it up
We're all marketing people. We know that it is essential to follow up a lead. It's the same with contacts. If you have warmed them up to you, it makes sense to show your interest by getting back in touch a couple of days later. Remember to have a reason for getting in touch, so perhaps refer back to something you discussed. And if you didn't get their details or have lost them, don't forget to look them up on LinkedIn and connect that way.
Keep it going
As time goes on, you may see events or news features that you think they might be interested in - so share them. It keeps the dialogue going and in time you may reach the point where you are trusted and valued contacts of one another - prepared and able to help each other out. Who knows you might even meet up in person again one day...