There is real magic in a good network. Anyone can build one. And I mean anyone. Here's how you make it a whole lot easier than you may be expecting. (And if you don't want to hear it from me, I recommend the attached article, which is great and really encouraging.)
Some people are superstars at this networking business. They gracefully glide through rooms of strangers, remembering names and facts, effortlessly ice-breaking with elegant remarks and witty rejoinders. Everyone seems to gravitate towards them. And they appear never to break a sweat, never relentlessly prepare and torture themselves beforehand about what they can and can't remember, or about what's in 'the intelligent papers' that morning - that you tried and failed to make sense of when you desperately skim read them 30 minutes before you hit that dreaded venue...
Admire them? Resent them? However you feel about them, the fact is that these natural network superstars are generally in the minority, leaving most of us grounded earthlings to feel the usual sort of anxiety, sweaty palms and discomfort that the mere mention of a networking event generally triggers.
But that's over. I promise you. Kick the torture to the curb and walk away with your shoulders squared and your head held high. Follow these quick and painless steps instead:
1. download the LinkedIn and Twitter apps on to your smartphone;
2. get your profiles up to date and start having some fun.
I mean fun, by the way.
These simple social network tools are brilliant. From them you can achieve a number of really effective things.
First, they're your ideal showcase - before you ever attend any event or meeting. It's important to present the right impression and these days, this happens long before any face to face contact takes place. Make yourself discoverable. The LinkedIn profile is today's modern business card. It enables you to create the most powerful business card and CV you could ever have - and frankly, a better and more authentic profile than any corporate bio on a web-site can give you. The template is well-structured and expertly guides you through how to complete it, in your own words, which keeps it authentic. Others, who may be very influential themselves, endorse you and you can ask them for testimonials - don't be shy about asking for these either. When I first started taking LinkedIn seriously, I was almost too embarrassed to ask for testimonials - and then I was astonished by how many people were only too willing to oblige.
These last 2 elements - endorsements and testimonials - can be particularly compelling for anyone looking you up before attending a meeting with you. Your LinkedIn profile is usually the first thing that comes up on a Google search for you, so take this profile seriously. A badly written profile or an inappropriate photo (or no photo at all) can damage perceptions of you and your professionalism right from the start. Not making an effort doesn't just look lazy or careless (or even arrogant), it defeats the purpose of the exercise in the first place - your most commonly accessed showcase is undermined and stunted.
In a different but no less valuable way, your Twitter profile also deserves some thought as well. It's also one of the first items that Google will reveal in any search about you and so what you say, who you follow, and who follows you, can tell future business contacts a great deal about you. I'll freely admit that I was pretty terrified about Twitter too. The truth is that I'm a big convert. As long as you use your common sense, it's a really great tool.
Now you're discoverable, it's time to discover others - as well as your ice-breaker, conversation topics. This is where these two channels really come into their own and start delivering for you. Through these 2 public-facing tools alone, you can discover all sorts of information that you may never have found by other means. With LinkedIn and Twitter, you can expand your network, find out what others within your network are interested in and who they follow and what they say and who else they are connected to - who might be people you have in common, who can endorse you, give you some low-down on who you might be about to meet, help bring you together before you ever enter a room together. It's always great to have people you already know in the room.
Best of all, it's quick, it's childishly easy to do and you'll learn a wealth of information that is perfect at breaking the ice. Contacts and conversation topics. That's what it boils down to. And with these two tools, there's a wealth of these contacts and topics ready at your finger-tips and tailored for you. All of which you can manage from your armchair, bed, seat on the bus, local coffee shop, wine bar - wherever it is that you happen to be when you need to know important stuff. As long as you have your phone, you have the best data you can get, right when you need it.
And don't think it's all about searching for data. You can set alerts for the profiles and postings of persons or organisations that you're most interested in. In fact, one of the things I love most of all is that you can be pretty lazy about it. For the first time, information that you need will find you. And people you don't know about, (but would want to connect with if you did), will find you or at the very least come across your radar, so you can reach out to them - giving you new opportunities to make contacts, share things in common and explore opportunities together.
Of course, this is tip of the iceberg stuff. For great tips and advice on how to get the very best out of social media for face to face or online networking purposes or to benefit your business more broadly, take a look at the free guides on Tamara Littleton's award-winning web-site www.emoderation.com, whose clear and helpful advice I have turned to on many occasions and never regretted.
So good luck and network your socks off. You may soon find you even enjoy it from now on. Go forth. Succeed.
Effective networking doesn’t have to mean awkward small talk at boring business breakfasts. The dictionary defines networking as “exchanging information and forming professional connections through informal social meetings” but to many of us it means stultifying events in a room full of reluctant networkers – leaving with a handful of business cards that you never look at again. But what if we’re doing it wrong? What if the secret of successful networking is to stop thinking of it as organised happenings to drag yourself to, and instead recognise networking as an attitude we can apply to a variety of relationships? Galvanising existing networks can have a far reaching impact on your business.