If you define networking as meeting new people and establishing a rapport with those of interest then there are many excellent reasons to make the effort.
1. Many people have met very good friends, and even their life partner, through networking events.
2. Many a business partnership has grown from a chance meeting at some event or other.
3. We can learn a lot from others, most especially people who are outside our own network.
4. Getting outside our comfort zone by networking makes us more capable to get outside our comfort zone in other areas of our life.
5. We meet interesting people and start new relationships!
For those of you looking for ways to make it easier, here are a few thoughts.
1. Network with people who you already have something in common with. For example Alumni groups have their school or former employer in common; industry association meetings have a common industry in common etc.
2. Look for a second thing in common. You could persuade organisers to have an area of the name badge indicate 3 areas of interest that could be personal or related to the event. I went to a conference for business owners that ride motorcycles … having two common interests from the outset made conversation and camaraderie very easy.
3. Don’t think of it as networking, it is just talking to people. Don’t go with the intent of getting something, go prepared to give some knowledge, some advice or just a friendly smile.
4. Be prepared before you go. Think about good questions you might ask that would be relevant to the kind of people attending.
5. Be brave, jump in the deep end even though it is uncomfortable. Getting out of your comfort zone is good for you, and doing it at a networking event is low risk. Most of the people there are feeling much the same as you.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” African proverb.
Expanding your contacts is just a start to building relationships, and we can never tell where those relationships will go. We do know that without relationships is a lonely place to be!
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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