Networking Boot Camp

by 13 Apr 2010

Not everyone has the natural ability to network, but according to our experts it’s a skill that can be learned. Nick Duffield and Sam Badcock reveal some tips to master the art of networking

What is networking?

Networking is simply a system of building connections that allows you to make new contacts, exchange ideas, obtain referrals and acquire specialised knowledge. In terms of human resources, face-to-face networking is a great tool for finding quality staff. HR professionals using networking tools are better positioned to get a hold of reliable recommendations and references from trusted sources. Although networking demands time and social skills, personal connections are considerably less expensive than advertising.

When it comes to networking skills, some people are born networkers while others need guidance and practice. Seasoned networkers Samantha Badcock and Nick Duffield, from Clements Recruitment, provide some of their networking tips to help you get started:

General principles

• Daily – network 15 minutes per day

• Weekly – attend 1 relevant event per week

• Activities – attend trade fairs and exhibitions

• Image – think about your personal brand including wardrobe and grooming. Consider professional photography

• Attitude – give without expectation

• Professionalism – punctuality, image and attitude all reflect on your brand

Pre-event preparation

• Mind – important to remain calm, positive, focused and breathe deeply

• Diary – always carry a diary for easy and quick access

• Cards – always carry enough cards in card holder

• Punctuality – always arrive on time, or call to advise if delayed

• Elevator Pitch – practice a short, sharp and cheerful pitch when networking

• Objectives – plan your objectives for a particular event

• Duration – stay until the end of the event, as it is the best time for networking

Event guidelines

• Scanning – scan the crowd, work towards your planned objectives

• Greeting – have strong handshake and make eye contact

• Strangers – befriend strangers that look uncomfortable

• Open – avoid speaking only with colleagues and familiar crowd

• Introductions – remember to introduce others

• Notes – cards should be used to note the date that you met contact and quirky fact about them

• Stories – keep stories brief

• Authenticity – keep conversation authentic and not superficial

• Listen – pay attention, listen closely and do not be distracted

• Trust – do not gossip and break the trust of the contact

• Push-up – do not pull-down

• Fun – have fun, lighten the mood and do not become too intense

• Quality – the objective is obtain quality contacts, not quantity

Post-event debrief

• Database – ensure your database is up-to-date and clean

• Leads – define and prioritise your event leads:

– Revenue (difficult to find)

– Potential

– Other

• Commitments – honour any commitments or arranged follow-ups

• Emails – never send bulk emails to people you meet, especially if they work in the same company

• Birthdays – remember to call

• Self-critique – record your end of the telephone conversation and look for improvements

• Connect – use technology to stay in touch with contacts such as Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo

• Ongoing networking – identify optimistic contacts and ask for their key to success

• Referrals – give away one referral per day – it will return ten-fold

• Nurture – follow up, nurture and cultivate the relationships – well worth the time and effort.

Source: Nick Duffield & Sam Badcock, Clements Executive Recruitment