Networking skills

It's sometimes a challenge to know how to get the best out of attending networking meetings. Everyone pretends they are delighted to be there, and they will all tell you how busy they are.

To help you through the potential networking minefield, here are a few hints and tips as to how to get the most from the meeting:


Ask questions that start with how, what,  where, when, why and who

All too often people talk too much about themselves and what it is they do at such events. If asked, of course we need to give details, but keep them brief. More importantly, asking open questions that start with the above words will gather more information for you about the person you are talking to.


Steer towards a point of genuine mutual interest

We gather information about someone we have just met in the hope of finding a point of common interest. This allows us to move to the next level of building rapport. Asking where they are off to on holiday this year is a good example. If they reply with a place that you have also visited, this can lead to an exchange of views and a feeling that you have something in common.


When asked, tell people what it is you actually do, not your job title

This is the essence of a really good 'elevator pitch.' "I work for Acme Solicitors" is not really a great answer. Describe the chaleenges your customers face and how you help them. 


Repeat back parts of what are being said to you

Repeating key words and parts of sentences shows you are engaged and really listening. We all know how it feels to talk to someone who does not seem to be heeding a word you have said...


Try using more eye contact

If you feel uncomfortable with this, look at the bridge of the persons nose; they won't notice and it can be easier. 


Take a little time to prepare

How much time would you spend preparing for an interview for a job you really wanted? Consider looking at networking as a series of mini-interviews; it makes sense to at least some a little time preparing what it is you want to say, and what it is you want to achieve of find out.


Make a graceful exit by not apologising 

If you really want to get away, ask to be excused from the conversation because you must do xxxxxx. It could be that you need to talk to John Baker before he goes. Saying you are really sorry and excusing yourself simply sounds like you just don't want to talk to someone any longer. Which may of true, but is probably best disguised. Beware however of making sure that you then go and do what it is you said you were going to, you may well be being watched!