A Business Owner Walks Into a Room… Connecting with Purpose
Networking. How would you define it?
We certainly have our own way of explaining it, and the answer isn’t short. Networking presents itself in so many forms, you may be halfway through a networking opportunity and not even know it - it can be as natural as that. Erin carries business cards in her daughter’s diaper bag and Erika runs into current clients and other professional contacts wherever she goes - the gym, the grocery store, you name it. What is our point? That networking can happen anywhere, at any point and with many outcomes.
If we get outside of thinking of networking as a venue that’s forced upon us and more as opportunities that can appear at any time of day, maybe it wouldn’t be such an intimidating word? We have always said that networking needs a rebrand as it can sometimes have a negative connotation. But it can be fun and rewarding and look nothing like working your way around a hotel ballroom with your tiny cup of coffee. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a time and place for every type of networking - a lot of the more traditional styles can be very effective for you and your company. But that’s just it, there are many types and the ballroom is just one.
We could talk about the nuanced art of networking all day but we thought we would ask the person we believe to be an exceptional networker and relationship builder, Natalie Hand, Partner, Meridia Recruitment, to chime in. If you have ever met Natalie, you know what we mean. She has the ability to inspire other people to become better networkers, and is a wonderful person to be around. Take it away, Natalie!
How do you define networking?
It may be purposeful for you and your business or it could also be connecting others. The key to networking is mutual benefit – exchanging ideas and information of common interest, which is different than traditional sales.
Networking could be an event like a mixer or reception, a conference or a business luncheon. It could also be a one-on-one coffee meeting, or it can be done online using social media platforms like LinkedIn. Networking also includes volunteering involvement and Board representation.
Why is networking so important?
People and connections are essential to business. Newfoundland and Labrador is a relationship-driven province so networking is built into everything here. Getting out there is part of the work day.
You walk in the room - now what?
My advice is to go for it and jump in: walk over to someone new, shake their hand and introduce yourself. Tell them who you are and where you work then ask them the same question.
In every conversation, focus on the person or people you are taking to. Make sure they feel like the most important person in the room.
Traditional forms of networking can be intimidating to many of us. What are your tips on how to combat nerves?
Remember that most people in the room are nervous too. You do not need to conquer the whole room at once. A few meaningful conversations will go a long way.
How can you be productive during a networking conversation while also acting natural?
Networking should have a natural flow. The idea is to connect from one conversation to the next. The notion that you should make a big sale or deal in that moment is unrealistic.
What should you do following a networking event? What is your routine?
Immediately, I make note of any important leads or useful pieces of information that I have gathered, and most importantly, I always follow-up, I make that a habit. I will email a short note to the people I connected with to say thanks and let them know I am interested in staying in touch.
What does successful networking look like to you? Tips for measuring success?
Networking is an ongoing process. It is not a box you can tick and say that it is done but rather a constant effort of building and expanding relationships. Over time, it should get easier, practice makes perfect. Eventually the nerves will ease and the whole process will come naturally.