Open Networking – Practical Tips

When thinking about networking events we are usually very focussed on the formal part of the meeting – especially the introductions to the room. This is understandable; however the Open Networking sessions are just as important as that is where you start to develop real relationships with other local business people.

When I first started networking (over twelve years ago) these Open Networking sessions were seriously scary as I didn’t know anyone or what to say? However now I know no fear! After all everyone is there to meet other people.

I have also learnt lots of tips along the way that make the Open Networking a lot easier:

  • On arrival head for the refreshments – there is always a conversation to be had there – e.g. which cakes are the best, asking how to get the water out of the hot water dispensers (I can never get this right!) etc.

 

  • Conversation openers do not have to be original: “Have you been to this networking group before?”, “Gosh isn’t the traffic / weather awful today” or a simple introduction: “Hi I’m Mel from The Magazine Connection, I don’t think we’ve met before”, all work very well.

 

  • Business networking itself is also a really great topic for a conversation with someone you have just met – which other groups do they attend / recommend? Why do they like them? When / where do they meet? Which formats do they prefer?

 

  • Do not be afraid to move on: “It’s been lovely talking to you but I think we had better both move on and meet some other people” – it’s what you are there for.

 

  • So, you move on but everyone is in little huddles all deep in conversation. Usually going to join a larger group of people is easiest and if you are in that group and see that someone is wanting to join you welcome them with a smile and bring them into the conversation.

 

  • Sometimes the person you really need to speak to is deep in conversation with one other person. Most advice on this will tell you not to approach them but at a networking event where time is limited and you don’t want to leave without speaking to them then I think it is fine to interrupt briefly and say: “Sorry to interrupt but please can I have a word with xxx when you have finished your conversation.”

 

  • The first time you meet someone and they ask what you do keep it very brief, never a sales pitch – and always remember to ask about their business too.

 

  • Never, and I do mean never, just go around everyone giving out your business card.

 

  • Networking is about meeting new people and establishing better relationships with people you already know, so try and do both in equal measure.

 

  • It absolutely does not matter if you recognise someone but cannot remember their name – just say so – we have all been in this situation!

 

  • Always focus on how you can help the person you are speaking to, so be generous with your advice, share your knowledge and experience.

 

  • … and above all smile – networking is great fun!