Connecting: Making Friends in Business

How to love networking

If the word ‘networking’ fills you with dread, I sympathise with you.  Perhaps the word conjures up images of walking into a room full of suited strangers, all laughing and talking to each other and ignoring you. Or worse, people who you have no wish to know thrusting their business cards in your hand to sell you their product.

However, networking is really about connecting, exchanging information and building relationships. Getting out and mixing with other people is very healthy and essential to your business, if not your sanity.  I strongly recommend building an inner circle of people you can rely on and those that can rely on you and this is how you will find those you haven’t yet met through social media.

Business events

So here some tips on making these events productive, easy and fun!

  1. Realise that the people in the networking room are unlikely to be your customers. Phew! Once that pressure is off, you can relax, be yourself, have a big confident smile for everyone you make eye contact with and talk to many people. They may be suppliers, collaborators, know potential clients or they may become clients in months or years to come so go forth and make friends!
  2. Ask people what they need and most importantly, as you have two ears and one mouth, listen to them and see how you can help them and who you can introduce them to. Even if you are new to business, you are an expert at something and they will appreciate your advice. In my experience, this gives your both credibility and a warm glow!
  3. Have a few questions up your sleeve in case you get stuck for conversation. Something like; I’m thinking of changing my phone, what do you all recommend? Anyone used a virtual assistant? Printers, how do you find one that always works?!
  4. Avoid being that guy! Even if the person you are talking to is a little, how shall we say, dull, avoid temptation to look over their shoulder! Instead either stand with your back to people so there is nothing over their shoulder but a wall, so you concentrate or deliberately open up the circle where you are standing so it looks inviting for someone to join in the conversation. Alternatively, walk them across to someone you do know to introduce them. Keep productive while remaining a friendly networker!
  5. Coffee. This is what you have come for; to invite people out for coffee who may become one of your inner circle. Aim to find one or two people who you get on with and ask them out for a coffee. (It’s not dissimilar to dating, in fact) Arrange where and when or agree to email within a set time – say 24 hours. On that note, if someone promises to contact you in a set period of time and they forget about you, just think twice if you’d like them to be in your inner circle after all.

[box type="tick" style="rounded"]What are your top tips for making friends at business events? Please do add them below![/box]

Rickie is the founder of co-working event Jelly, co-hosts Likemind and is co-organiser of Birmingham Entrepreneurs. Follow @CraftySkills1 or join the business conversation on #CraftyBreak each Wednesday 1-2pm