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Networking for Beginners - 10 Steps to Get You Going

Author: Geoff Hulbert

Published date: 2020/01

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Property Council 2013 networking event: Cut to Geoff Hulbert, a fledgling industry professional with less than a years’ experience, first time at an industry event, flying solo, scouring name badges looking for people or companies I may be familiar with. Sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, butterflies in my stomach…

Sound familiar? You’re not alone!

Networking is often one of the most daunting prospects any of us face in our careers (particularly at the start) but take solace in the fact that this is the same for 95% of people out there. While it will take a while for the butterflies to go away, the good news is there are some simple things you can do that will help get you started.

1. Do your research!

Networking events are rarely a spur of the moment thing, start to reach out to your connections now! Who do you know who is going to attend, let them know you will be there too and that you’ll make sure you find them and say hello! You now have someone to look for, what’s more, they are expecting you to find them and will almost certainly welcome you into their conversation.

2. Find a wingman or wing woman!

Andrew Hennigan put it best when he said “People trust preferentially people they know already, either directly or through another trusted person. This means that gaining that trust with new people is much easier when you have a strong network.”  

Bringing a colleague to a networking event, not only will this give you access to a much broader network (theirs) it is also a lot easier for you to be able to work your way into conversations with people you don’t know. You share the burden of building rapport but also contributing to the conversation.

3. Invite your clients and offer to bring them as your guest.

This seems like a basic point, but the benefits are huge. If it is a big/relevant enough event there are probably only 3 scenarios;

  • They are already going: No problem, but the invite was a gracious one and they’ll almost certainly be happy to chat when you arrive, and it will strengthen your relationship anyway.

  • They are aware of the event but unable to attend: No problem, but it was nice of you to offer. Is there anyone else in their business who might like to go or could potentially benefit from attending as your guest.

  • They were aware of the event but hadn’t decided whether to go: If they were on the fence this is likely to be enough for them to take you up on the offer. This is a great way to get to know your clients better if you can assist them in making new connections – even better!

4. First impressions count!

Dress appropriately, stand up straight, firm handshake, eye contact and smile!OK, it sounds cliché but there is a lot of research around how quickly people form an impression of you. Some say 2-3 seconds, others as long as 30 seconds; so let’s go with 10 seconds as a safe number. Whether we like to admit it, it is human nature to make snap judgments and dates all the way back to prehistoric times where survival often depended on quickly assessing potential threats – it is hardwired into us!

Clothes, body language, and demeanour all have a big impact on these first impressions. Often people will make assumptions about other’s jobs, how successful they are, even their personality and what type of person they are all based around appearance. In effect, they form a ‘first impression filter’ everything they find out about you after those first passing seconds will be seen through this filter.

So like I said, dress appropriately, stand up straight, firm handshake, eye contact and smile!

5. “Say my name, say my name” (Who doesn’t like Destiny’s Child)

 When someone introduces themselves to you, make sure you say their name. They won't even notice you have done it, but there is a huge amount of research around how using someone’s name enhances your chances of forming a meaningful connection.

“Hi, I’m Geoff from Fetch, how are you?”

“Hi Geoff, I’m John from Joe Blogs Construction.”

“Nice to meet you John, have you been to one of these events before?”

BOOM - Networking like a pro already!

Terrible with names? Try to form a connection or an association with their name it will help you remember it. i.e. “John’s my brother’s name that should be easy to remember, have you been to one of these before?”  Alternatively, try to picture someone famous who shares their name. It can be a bit harder to lock-in that connection initially but once you lock it in its there for good.

6. How can I sound credible?

Ask smart questions! Mark Twain once said, “It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt” It is important to remember that you don’t have to be an authority of all subjects. Asking smart questions allows others to do most of the talking and provide you with the chance to hear other’s thoughts. If you are asked for your opinion it is ok to say something along the lines of “its not something I am all that familiar with, what are your thoughts?”

7. “Ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network”  

Ok, a bit of a misquote, but you get the idea. Reciprocity is defined as “a situation in which two groups agree to help each other by behaving in the same way or by giving each other similar advantages”. Give and you will receive. Networking events really are about helping others make connections, their networks become yours and vice versa. Pay particular attention to your clients, who are they likely to be interested in connecting with; are you in a position to help make introductions?

8. Don’t forget your business cards!

And don’t be afraid to ask someone for theirs! It’s a lot more awkward for someone to say no to giving you a business card than for you to ask – so make sure you ask!

9. Follow up!

If you have a conversation and exchanged business cards make sure you follow up with them, put their details in your phone (apps like CamCard can save you a lot of time) and send a follow-up email!

10. Practice makes perfect!

The more networking events you attend, the more comfortable it will become.

The steps above should certainly give you a head start, but as with most things in life the more you practice the easier it becomes – over to you!

Geoff Hulbert is the Senior Manager of our Residential Construction, Civil Infrastructure, Engineering, Property and Subcontracting divisions, with years of knowledge and experience in his industries he has built an extensive network and is always striving to create connections for his team members and colleagues. Connect with Geoff on LinkedIn here!