Get more out of your networking by picking up these good habits.
Over the past 20 years we have attended literally 1000’s of networking events and observed many highly successful (and some not so successful) networkers in action. Like sponges we’ve absorbed everything and taken every opportunity to listen to and learn from these experts.
We’ve been privileged to have developed long-term relationships with many of these master networkers, several of whom are long-standing Opendoorz members. We want Opendoorz to stay at the top of the networking list for business Owners and Directors across Oxfordshire so we know we have to continually adapt and improve. Continuous professional development is not just a part of our regular Opendoorz meetings it’s a key to the Opendoorz culture.
As we’ve watched these pros work a room over the years we’ve observed that no matter who they are, what industry they work in or background they come from they all share similar behaviours and characteristics when it comes to professional business networking. Perhaps for some it comes naturally but for most it is a learned skill (just like tying your shoe laces) and with practice anyone can emulate the key traits required to become better at networking.
We’ve compiled the top 7 traits that we’ve observed all good networkers have to ensure better networking success;
#1 Be open-minded
Good networkers recognise that there are more benefits to networking than just business opportunities. They use networking to build their bank of trusted suppliers, learn from others and keep up to date with what’s going in their local area. They also tend to be receptive to new networking opportunities, are keen to be proactive and encouraging of those wanting to get involved.
#2 Make Friends
Networking should be one of the highlights of your working week rather than a drag. If you’re not enjoying it, it comes across in your whole demeanour. Treat your fellow networkers as future friends rather than work acquaintances – who knows they might even become firm friends or even more…we know at least one married couple who met at a networking meeting! It’s the little things that make the difference – be polite & courteous, show interest in what others are saying, and most importantly – SMILE!
#3 Be a Believer
Powerful things happen in networking meetings when people are brought together in an environment of trust and support. It leads to great connections, long-term business relationships and mutual benefits. You just need to go with the belief that these things can happen. Guess what? If you’re cynical, reticent and hold back others will treat you the same! So be a believer in the power of joint ventures, collaborations and working together towards a common goal.
#4 Get Organised and Be Prepared
Beneath the surface of the water a swan paddles away for all their worth but above the impression is of a graceful and dignified gliding across the lake. This is also true of successful networkers! You might be feeling nervous, stressed, tired or all of the above but it is important to appear unflustered and in control. Ok, so that might be easier said than done but there are some tricks you can use to help. Firstly, make sure you are organised before the event – think about what you are going to wear, know where you are going, allow enough time to get there and always prepare and practice your introduction, presentation etc. Secondly know what to expect – research who will be there, what the format is and what will be expected of you. You can always chat to the organiser in advance.
#5 Be Authentic
The best networkers we’ve encountered focus on building rapport rather than pitching their business. They are reliable and put you at ease with their unpressured approach. When they say they will do something they always do. To emulate this, try to connect with people and think of ways you can genuinely help them. Even simple gestures, such as sending them a link to an article you’ve read that might be of interest, builds rapport which makes you likeable and promotes trustworthiness. The most successful networkers are generous of spirit, not only with their time but their knowledge and resources. They are willing to share ideas and contacts without hesitation or reticence. They’ll not only always do what they’ve committed to do but often a little more.
#6 Be Bold!
You shuffle your feet, stare at the ground and mumble about being an Accountant/IT Consultant/Photographer/Whatever! What kind of impression do you think you’re giving? The most effective networkers are enthusiastic, confident, interested and hold their heads high. You can just see how passionate and proud they are of their businesses.
American Founding Father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, said ‘If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done’. Being willing to step out of your comfort zone, to try new things and happily embrace new ideas and suggestions will get you a long way in the networking world.
#7 Be enthusiastic
There’s a good reason why one of Opendoorz’s core values puts an emphasis on business being fun. When you put your energy into something you stand a much better chance of succeeding. Commit enthusiastically to networking. You’ll find you make great connections and great introductions when you are persistent, focused and upbeat.
The above traits are our observations of the qualities great networkers display. Please don’t feel you have to be able to tick off all the above traits before you can start networking! The best way to hone your skills is through practice! Think about how you can impress and engage with people and be as prepared as you can but ultimately just get there. And remember the biggest step is always the first one through the door. From then on in – you’ve got this!
Opendoorz Guest Events are lively and relaxed affairs that provide a perfect environment for Business Owners and Directors to build relationships and make new connections. Don’t take it from us though, Opendoorz member Andy Holt says:
“In 2 ½ years of being a member of Opendoorz we have earnt in excess of £85,000, I challenge you to find a more productive and rewarding networking group” Andy Holt, Owner of OSX (https://osx.uk/)
Opendoorz has 7 groups across Oxfordshire and Berkshire, each hosts a monthly guest event. To find out more about the different groups and to register for a guest event follow the link below.