7 Awesome Things You Can Learn from Studying Business Networking!
7 Awesome Things You Can Learn from Studying Business Networking!
Do you, like me, love networking? Over the years I have met lots of interesting people and had numerous pleasant conversations. Looking back, I suppose I’ve learnt some very interesting things by being involved and I’d say in studying business networking.
What do I mean by studying business networking? Well, giving thought to how people communicate and interact with each other in a networking environment. What skills you develop, the body language aspects and what ideas it might bring, it’s not only fun and interesting it can give you lots of valuable life lessons too.
Below is my take on the lessons I have learnt during my time business networking.
‘Never judge a book by its cover’ – oh, how true this old saying is and in my early days of networking on a number of occasions I did exactly this, much to my embarrassment and shame. I’m sure you have done it too, we all do at some point. Met someone and perhaps thought I’m not keen on this person, for whatever reason or not really worth me talking to etc. I’m sure on numerous occasions I have made the wrong assumption about someone, rather than the right one. Okay, maybe on occasions I was right, but not in the majority of cases.
Lesson to be learnt, all it takes is to ignore your first impression, keep an open mind and have a conversation.
‘You never get a second chance to create a first impression’ – Again, what another great saying and again so much truth in it don’t you think? Do you create the right impression? It’s all about how you present yourself to the world, and not just how you look or dress, (which of course is important and goes a long way towards creating a good impression!) but maybe more the manner in which you present yourself, or how you want to ‘come across’ to people. If you are a negative person, then usually that’s how you will be perceived and how they will see or think of you. The flip side is, if you are positive person, then the likelihood is that you will be seen as a positive person.
Lesson to be learnt, create the right impression in the way you look and how you present yourself to the world, have a positive outlook on life.
‘Communication must be HOT – That’s Honest, Open and Two-way’ (Dan Oswald)…
I like this saying and I believe good communication is an art and it takes practise to do it properly. Communication skills have got to be one of the biggest factors in succeeding in both business and life. I think to a degree the art of communication like most things can be learnt. If you think how amazing is it that we have language, where we can share ideas, create wonderous things, tell stories etc. Then isn’t it worth trying to do it to the best of your ability. So, in all your communications make sure you are honest, true to yourself, keep your word and be open and remember it’s definitely a two-way process. Which means of course spend more time listening when in a conversation than speaking. Always show interest in what the other person has to say. It’s not just the words that we speak though, it’s also our body language. The eye contact we make, our gestures, our smile, how we walk, posture and the tone of our voice etc. Think about helping others achieve their goals, think about what you can do for them. As the old saying goes ‘what goes around, comes around’. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt through networking.
Lesson learnt, give people your undivided attention, smile, and when in a conversation spend more time listening than speaking, offer to help them in some way if you can. You will be amazed at the excellent conversations you will have, friends you will make and information and knowledge you will acquire.
Managing your time
Why managing your time and what lessons can be learnt by networking? Well it’s simple basically all you need to do is make sure that you’re not continually running from one networking event to the other. Use your time wisely by planning which events you will attend, when you will attend them and work out if they are going to be of value to you in some way. We can all be ‘busy fools’ going from one thing to another. Know who you are going to speak to by thinking about who might be a referral partner, client or supplier who could benefit you in your business. Apparently, on average you have only around 27,375 days to live. If you calculate your age and multiply by 365 and then subtract 27,375, this gives you an indication of many days you have left! Do the math, it’s quite sobering!
Lesson learnt, prioritise your time, know your goals in life – make sure you keep sight of the important things in life – Don’t waste your days!
This is so important! In fact, it is extremely important! Why important? I realised quite early on in my pursuit of meeting people at different business networking events I had no objectives, no goals. What did this mean? At most events I attended I wasted my time, I didn’t know who I wanted to speak to, who might be a good referral partner, how many people I wanted to meet, why I wanted to meet etc. I’m sure like most people you’ve heard of the set yourself ‘SMART’ goals, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound? This works extremely well for business networking events. Know the kind/type of person, business your looking to connect with, set yourself a target of the number of people, decide if its realistic (don’t try and shove your business card under as many noses as possible!). Can you achieve it? Does the number of people at the event enable you to achieve it, are you being realistic? Finally, timebound, make sure you set a time when you will follow up with people you have met at the event. Ideally the day after the event while it is still fresh in their minds of where they met you when you follow up.
Lesson learnt, if you don’t set goals in your life, then you have no direction. You need a start point and an end point. Set goals for everything you want to achieve, know where you are going in life!
Now I hear you ask why would you include team working in business networking? Simple, if you are part of a good networking group, a group of people who meet on a regular basis, you get to know, like and trust them. These people will work with you to help you meet potential new clients, maybe help you identify opportunities you hadn’t thought of yourself or give you advice or information that will benefit you or your business. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have helped someone and you become a team, working together looking out for each other. If you think about it, being part of something like this means you communicate well, you trust each other and you show commitment. Within a networking group you have diversity, lots of different skills and lots of different capabilities. All of which goes together to make a great team of people, with a common purpose, just to help and support each other.
Lesson learnt, good teams are based on communication, willingness to help and support each other, commitment and diversity of skills all working to a common goal or objective.
Another really useful skill to have for both business and life. Over my many years and lots of time spent at various networking events, I’ve found that being able to present one’s self and your business is vital. Being able to present information clearly and effectively is important in getting your message or opinion across, especially today, these skills are required in almost every field and walk of life. When you are involved in business networking it’s a given that you get your message about you or your business across as succinctly as possible. For example, I am a member of a BNI (Business Networking International) group (which by the way I think is brilliant!) and as part of what you have to do at a meeting is present yourself and your business in sixty seconds. Its, more commonly known as an elevator pitch. This really makes you think carefully about what you want to say within those sixty seconds. You also get the chance every so often to present to the group for ten minutes. Of course, the first few times you do this, it is extremely nerve racking and if you’re not used to it, it takes you completely out of your comfort Zone. A great thing about both the sixty second and the ten-minute presentation is that it helps to improve your confidence when speaking to a large audience and the networking gives you confidence when speaking to individuals. It also teaches you to prepare, plan and organise so that you can present in the best possible way. An excellent way to get your message across is of course to tell stories. People love a story, it keeps you engaged, entertained and makes the message memorable!
Its important to be able to present yourself or your business. In both business and life on occasion you will be called upon to make a presentation of some sort. Show passion about your subject or topic, make eye contact, smile (very important), plan but most importantly tell stories. As human beings we are programmed to respond to good stories!