Networking: When did it become a dirty word?

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5th November, 2016

As my business partner and I kicked off our strategy and planning session one Sunday afternoon, we soon landed on the topic of events. I started bullet pointing the type of networking events I thought our members would love, it was then the intonation of THAT word came up.

Apparently, we are now more likely to be put off rather than encouraged to attend a networking event. It got me thinking, why? Surely the vintage versions of a networking meeting belong wholly in the past? With stuffy accountants (sorry!), eating fatty cold bacon sandwiches and weak tea, standing in a cold bare room, exchanging bland business cards. To be 100% honest, working in London many moons ago (more moon’s than I care to admit), the only reason I went to them was to get away from my desk for an hour.

Did I EVER call a contact I had made? Did I ever follow up a potential lead? No. It was truly a waste of everyone’s time.  Before I laugh too hard though, I get to wondering, minus the bacon, tea and business cards, how effective are our ABW members at utilising any of the networking platforms we offer?

I know for surethat now, if I make a contact, I message them, follow them on social media and try to arrange a catch up/next step. That being said, I co-run the company, I have to practice what I preach. Do our members see it as a waste of their time because they don’t do the follow up? Do they even start with the best of intentions? Do they need to be ‘trained’ in effective networking? Sounds crazy, but it’s like watching a model walking a run way show. Everyone thinks it looks SO easy, it’s just walking and looking moody right? Well if it was, we’d all be doing it surely?

Essentially, networking is about connections, about chatting, and helping and sharing knowledge and contacts. Aspiring Business Women’s top four tips on effective networking are as follows:

1.      Get your bum to an event, don’t be put off by the title and think of every meeting as an opportunity to talk about your business.

2.      When you meet someone, don’t talk yourself down. Women are terrible for this. “I run a ‘little’ gift shop, I haven’t been doing it for long”. It might take some training, but you have to slap on some confidence and admit to being the kick ass business owner/ entrepreneur / wife/ mum / superwoman that you are.  An alternative suggestion would be “I have recently opened the doors to my debut boutique gift shop, such exciting times, I’m learning so much, you should pop along sometime and I’ll pop the kettle on for you”. Who would YOU rather be talking to from those two examples?

3.      Intend to help. Don’t spend one hour talking about yourself to some helpless individual who only came over to get a drink and you happen to be standing in the way! Actually converse.  Ask them questions too and really listen to the answers. If you can’t help them in some way, perhaps you know someone that can? #connecting

4.      After you leave, don’t just forget about your new contacts. Follow up, connect online, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. This is where the actual work comes in.

I you would like to pop along to any of the Aspiring Business Women networking events, so we can demonstrate just how relaxed and welcoming they are, check out our events page for those in your area. We can’t wait to connect with you.

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