Dec
12

Work it, Baby! Top Tips for Networking

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Have you ever been to a networking event where the goal of everyone around you seems to be to collect as many business cards as quickly as possible?  Wouldn’t it be better to connect with people rather than just collect their contact details?

Yes!  In October, we started our new series on networking, following the huge number of requests to cover this topic.  This month we’re looking at working the room.

But what does ‘working the room’ actually mean?  Here are a few points to keep in mind for doing just that.

Working The Room

As small business owners and members of BNI, we know that referrals drive business.  In fact, for small business owners like us there is no greater endorsement than a personal referral.  And what is the best way to help people make personal referrals to you?  Meet them!

So working the room is simply meeting people and connecting with them.

Look For An Opening

But there are often more people than we can actually meet at networking events.  How do we know who is open to meeting us?

Have a look at the picture below.  Which people would you walk up to?

Open Groups

Some of the people in the picture are standing in open groups, often called ‘Open Vs’ because of their shape.  Just like the letter itself, V-shaped groups allow people to talk while leaving an opening for others to join in.  And as we know, the more people who join the group, the more opportunities we have to connect with them.

Sorry We’re Closed

Some of the people in the picture are standing in closed groups.  They have their backs facing outwards and there is no space for people to join.  Closed groups repel others, which means no opportunities for connecting.

Are You Lost?  Can I Help?

There are a few ‘lost’ people in the picture, standing alone.  When you see a ‘lost’ person, remember the fundamental BNI maxim: Givers Gain®!  The person may be feeling nervous or alone.  Give them your time and attention.  Join them and start a conversation: you never know where it might lead.

Connecting With The Connectors

Standing in open groups and approaching people who look lost, are two good ways to become better networkers.  Another strategy is to connect with the connectors.

What does this mean?  Connectors are people who know hundreds (even thousands) of people.  They are the ones people mention first, and whose names come up time and time again.  Connectors are people who have built huge networks, through meeting and helping people.  They can provide you with a link to a great range of people, ideas, and information.

Keep an ear out for people saying, “You know who could help?  So-and-so, they know everyone!”

But don’t stop at meeting connectors, become a connector.  The easiest way to do this is to help people, to recommend an IT specialist to someone who needs help with their computer, or a great architect to someone renovating their house.  Over time, people will come to you for suggestions, which means you will also be front-of-mind when they need the services you provide.

So, when you are heading to your next chapter meeting or business-networking event, make sure you arrive early and leave late so you have time to work the room.

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