“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
I’ve always admired the quote above from Abraham Lincoln and I’ve long been a critic of small talk, but a few weeks ago I was thrust into an environment where small talk, and lots of it, was the name of the game. Welcome to the world of networking.
Many shiver at the thought of networking, but I believe that the word itself is what sends a jolt of fear through people.
When you think about what networking actually is – essentially talking to another human being in hope of attaining a beneficial business relationship – it isn’t so scary after all. It could easily be the business equivalent of dating.
This isn’t to say that networking is the easiest task in the world. Just as there are rules that govern the social activity of dating, there are a few things to remember when networking. Lessons from the pursuit of love can just as easily be translated to the world of finding a beneficial business contact.
Do not forget your business card
Although this seems to be an obvious tip, the number of people that told me that they had forgotten to take along their business cards means that this isn’t so uncommon.
Often used as a parting gift (for want of a better word), the business card is the perfect way to end an encounter with the person you’ve been chatting to.
Akin to a profile on a personal advert, the business card is a truncated version of the ‘professional you’, with your name, title and contact details. How else is the person meant to follow up with you in the future?
Don’t just talk about yourself
Often the pitfall of any social encounter is an individual that only talks about themselves. It’s annoying at best and quite rude at worst.
Would you want to be on the receiving end of a boaster that wouldn’t stop talking about they’re looking for? No. So remember to keep the encounter as a dialogue and not a Shakespearean monologue
You don’t have to be a completely different person in order to share your story. Instead of putting on a mask, be the best version of yourself. Just because networking is seen as an exercise in what you can get out of it doesn’t mean it has to be a fake affair.
Networking is essential in many walks of life and not just business. From the shrinking violets to the chatty and outgoing, making sure that you approach networking with a positive attitude will, more often than not, connect you with the right people.
Before you know it, networking will become a breeze and hopefully you’ll shoot straight into the upper strata of schmoozing.
What are your top tips for networking?