In my role as executive coach, the subject of networking frequently gets raised by clients who are either wanting to move on to another challenge or who’ve had their head down in their current company for such a long time that they’ve lost touch with contacts over the years.
For many, networking is seen as a professional chore and something only to be done when you need something. For others, it feels really awkward to cold call someone out of the blue because you want something from them. And many struggle with what they actually say when they’ve landed the networking coffee or half-hour meeting.
Well, over the years I’ve got to a place where I actually love networking meetings. It helps to be curious about others, passionate about what you do and clear in your purpose. Good networking, I believe, involves a meaningful exchange which is appreciated by and beneficial to both sides, even if that benefit is not immediate. Even better networking is when you really enjoy the meeting and, for the other person, it becomes the best meeting of the day.
How to you ensure you make it the best meeting of the day? Here are my top tips.
Be genuinely delighted to be with that person. Explain why you are excited to see them. Excitement and positivity are infectious. Make sure you’ve done your research beforehand, so you know what achievements they’ve recently pulled off. Compliment them on their work. Everyone appreciates being appreciated.
Have a pertinent summary of who you are ready to go. Don’t give them your life story, choose the bits that would be most relevant to them now. This means a sentence about what you do and three experiences to illustrate how you’ve best done it. Use anecdotes to bring your experiences to life, talk about what you’ve most loved and how you’ve tackled the challenges along the way. Talking passionately about your work makes it ten times more interesting and engaging to others.
Be clear about what you want. Don’t waste their time being vague or coy. It’s helpful to them if you are clear and direct about what you are looking for, be it a new challenge, new contacts, advice or just to make yourself known to them for the future. Don’t be squeamish about this: the clearer you are, the more chance you have of actually achieving what you want.
At this point, make clear why you are so interested in them and why you think your experience is relevant to them or their company. Explain what excites you about what they do and the prospect that you could be working with them. Present your thoughts and ideas about what you can bring to them. Explore opportunities they may have or get an idea of how things may evolve to a point they need you. Be enthusiastic and engaged.
Finally, before you finish, remember it’s not all take – think about how you can give back and be useful to them. You may have a contact at a company or a connection they’d like. You may have discussed a topic you could shine further light on later. You may be part of a group you could invite them to or speak at. The possibilities are endless. The point is to think about not only what you get out of a meeting but also what they get too. Don’t go empty-handed, leave them with a present, figuratively speaking. And enjoy!
Tracy is a creative mentor for the Channel 4 Indie Growth Fund, the producer of the WFTV mentoring scheme and a professional executive coach. Follow her at walterwootze.com