Hands up, soloists, if you find networking easy. About as easy as extracting oil from a paperclip, right? I thought so.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of seasoned networkers out there, but for a majority of us, networking remains an unconquered mountain.

In a survey, Network Central members were asked “What is your greatest networking challenge?" The main reasons given were:

I haven't got any free time

Truth is, effective networking can actually save you time by giving you a support network and an instant database of people to call for information, help and/or products or services.

Use your diary and schedule sufficient time to both attend one or two networking events regularly, and follow up on new contacts. You can collect all the business cards in the world but if they gather dust on your desk, they are worthless.

I'm not good at meeting new people

Do you enjoy making friends? That’s all networking really is – be excited about the amazing and inspirational people you are yet to meet. In reality, these scary new people are just as nervous as you.

People won’t find me interesting

What is wrong with us? We constantly doubt ourselves when we are actually pretty amazing! Be proud of who you are – you are absolutely someone worth talking to and everyone else is just as nervous as you.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business networking section.

I don’t know what to say

My advice is to ask questions, but open ended ones. Allow a person to let you in to their space. Don’t ask questions like “How are you?” “How was your trip here this morning?” or “Isn’t this weather lovely?” Instead ask something like, “What brings you to this event this morning?” and let the conversation flow from there.

Remember to listen...and keep listening. Engage yourself in that conversation fully and give that person the respect they deserve. Don’t look around for other people to speak to.

I have problems Introducing myself to strangers

After you say hello, they are no longer strangers, are they?

I don’t know how to leave a conversation

Exit gracefully. “I don’t want to take up any more of your time but it has been a pleasure speaking with you.” Or “I must go to the bathroom now but it has been an absolute pleasure meeting you.” Now please don’t think that every time someone wants to go to the bathroom they can’t wait to get away from you! Also don’t promise to follow up if you have no intention of doing so.

Networking is not only a sanity-saver for soloists, it is an extremely powerful business marketing tool. It is a well known fact that people do business with people they like and how are they going to like you if you hide behind an inbox?

So go and find that registration form, send it in and enjoy your new social life.

Now, let me just find that paperclip…

“ Networking is not only a sanity-saver for soloists, it is an extremely powerful business marketing tool. ”
 
Kim McGuinness

Kim McGuinness is founder of Network Central and networkingmentor.com.au She is also co-author of Network or Perish. Network Central is a leadership network for managers while networkingmentor.com.au provides online and face to face mentoring to grow exceptional networks.

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