Making great connections

‘Tis the season to be jolly… No, it’s not Christmas just yet.  It’s networking season!

After a quiet summer, the property industry is out and about, making new connections, refreshing old ones, sharing knowledge and creating opportunities to work together.

Some people love it, others not so much, but networking is a key part of professional life.

In the professional world, as much as we try to de-personalise procurement, people buy or invest in people. They build teams of people they trust: with their money, their reputation, their project.  And trust can only be built in person.

Why is networking such an important business skill?

Solid relationships help you to secure and deliver great work.  And building those relationships happens right from the beginning of your career.

Your network is your tribe: it’s the people you choose to spend your time with, who you enjoy working with, whose opinions you value, and who you turn to for help.  In the same way as we build tribes of friends or team mates, from when we are children, the network you build with your business cards is your work tribe.

Good professional relationships bring collaboration, shared knowledge and opportunities, support in tough times and space to think creatively.  They are open to new people, to new ideas and will survive a knock back or two.

Doing it well – and making the right first impression – takes care and effort.

When is networking not networking?

Some people break out into a cold sweat at the thought of walking alone into a networking event.  It can feel disingenuous, walking into a room of faces that you don’t know very well, seeking new work or people who might be useful to you.

That’s not networking.

Good networking is about making connections not sales.  It’s about sharing, not selling.  Networking is about relationships, not transactions.

Confession: I like it.  I enjoy meeting new people and feel energised by a good conversation.  A lot of my ideas come from the walk home when I’m mulling over something somebody said.  And you never know where a connection will take you.

Meeting new people – breaking into a new tribe – can be intimidating for the most confident person.  A small shift in emphasis can make all the difference.  Deciding that you are there to learn something new or get to know the market rather than to “network” will help you relax and make meaningful connections with people who want to connect with you in return.

Our top tips for great networking

Choose the right events

If you’re interested in it, so will they be.  Whether you enjoy a black tie dinner, talking about the future with young professionals, engaging in a political debate, a moral conundrum or simply having a great night out.

Bring a friend

You can arrange to meet people there, pair up with a colleague or book a table of 10.  A few friendly faces will give you the confidence you need.

Be prepared

Take a look at the guest list so you know who’s going.  Have a well-prepared way of introducing yourself.  Dress appropriately.  Take a look at the speakers and the programme.  Share the event on social media so that others know you’ll be there.  Check you’ve registered properly (spelling mistake in your own name…?).

Make an entrance

First, the basics: be in the right place at the right time.

Also, take a second before you enter the room: hang up your coat and stash your bag in the cloakroom; turn your phone off and put your business cards in the right pocket.  Check that your flies, buttons etc are all done up, pat your hair down and take a deep breath.  Walk into the room smiling confidently and looking around for those friendly faces (see above).

A sweaty ball of chaos wearing the wrong shoes and tripping over their shopping bags is not the entrance you’re looking for.

Be kind to others

Make introductions, welcome others into your conversation, compliment the speakers and the organisers, ask a question of the panel.  Great events are a team effort.

The morning after…

We harp on about this all the time.  Follow up, follow up, follow up!  All your networking efforts are pointless without good follow up.

What conversation were you having when you swapped business cards?  What promises did you make?  Who did you enjoy talking to (or not)?

Take half an hour the next working day and get stuck in.  Connect on LinkedIn with a personal message – please don’t spam everyone who was in the room – and also send a proper email.  Add people to your company CRM, to the guest list for your next event or to your mailing list (GDPR appropriate, of course).

But most importantly, choose your tribe carefully and enjoy being out and about!

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