Networking…what’s it all about?
Let me give you two personal examples. The first was a chance introduction from a friend to a business colleague in Cape Town, South Africa. Over a couple of months, we developed a relationship, which ended up with me working periodically over two years in the Botswana Business School!
The second relates to work that I do in sport…again and by chance, I met someone whose brother owns the largest rice producer in Kenya, and who upon learning of my work there, is keen to look at sponsorship opportunities.
The point to note…you never know who knows who, and only by taking an interest in people, do you uncover mutual opportunities…and often not with the person themselves, but with a third party that one of you knows. Up and down the country, people join business networking groups, do grow their contact base, and through collaboration, to find mutual opportunities via referrals.
What then are the key skills?
- Communication is the exchange of ideas from one person to another. It helps you use the right tone so that you receive a response from the other person.
- Active listening is the ability to focus on what the speaker is saying and responding thoughtfully to their message. It is an important skill to grow your network because you show them respect and understand their message by listening to others.
- If you attend networking events, you may need to interact with a large group of people to build connections, and on occasions you may be asked to give a presentation to highlight your business, and why people need your service.
- Social skills including Ei…how you interact with others in a personal and professional environment. These include words and gestures, visual cues, body language and appearance.
- Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s emotions and state of mind. It is an important skill for networking because people prefer sharing their emotions and experience with empathetic people.
- Often, people prefer to interact with individuals who display a positive demeanor and are friendly. A cheerful outlook and perspective toward everything can help you develop a strong rapport.
Of course, networking skills are needed at any time…are you networking properly?
“Where you are in five years depends on who you meet today!”