Face-to-face networking can be one of the most powerful ways to build professional relationships, actively foster existing relationships and close business deals or influence decisions.
With an increasing trend for organisations seeking professionals who not only have the required skills to do the job, but who can also act as business partners through successful communication and engagement with internal and external stakeholders, learning to network effectively face-to-face is an invaluable tool.
What makes a successful network?
A successful network requires a mutual understanding from the start - it is about what you can do for your contact and what they can do for you. The development of a strong network requires making connections that will sustain more than a simple introduction. A successful professional relationship takes time and effort to build. Those connections, and the support required to maintain them, are the necessary ingredients to developing a network.
You should never underestimate the power of joining industry bodies and actively participating in industry events and forums. Whether you are new to an industry or not, getting your name out there is important, and you’ll be amazed by the rewards you will reap.
How to network and build professional relationships
Not sure where to begin? Follow our top tips to networking and you will be well on your way to expanding your network.
Do not go to a networking event or join a forum aimlessly. Remember your overall goal is to meet professionals that you can help and vice versa.
Speak with as many people as you can at a networking function – you never know who’s there. Establish the basics and arrange another time to have a more detailed discussion so you are not using all of your time talking to a few people. You’re not going to remember everyone’s name, so it’s important you initiate the exchange business cards before the conversation is over.
Always follow up within a couple of days post the meeting, to ensure your hard work hasn’t gone to waste. The channel you use to connect should depend on the importance of the contact to you and your overall goal – phone and email are the most personal, followed by a professional networking site such as LinkedIn if the contact is someone you’d like to have in your wider network.