It’s mid-conference season so it’s likely anyone attending a conference will be thinking about all the networking opportunities ahead of them. I certainly am, as 5th June marks the start of CILIP Scotland’s conference in Dundee and I’m excited to be going. I’ll be using all the networking opportunities to meet new people and connect with old friends.
I like this definition from Merriam-Webster dictionary, as it describes the activities and benefits of networking:
‘the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business’
Networking activities occur regularly throughout our lives, but I know I’m guilty of thinking about networking as something I do for professional purposes. This ignores all the activities I do which mean I exchange information with others: on social media; at professional events; in public places (shops, trains etc); in local community settings; in faith groups; at trade shows/exhibitions and of course at parties. There are undoubtedly benefits to networking, and for many these are the main reasons for taking part: saves you time and means you don’t reinvent the wheel; provides support networks; allows you to share expertise; allows you to publicise your business and raise your profile; can provide assistance and support in finding a new job.
It’s important to remember that networking is about building relationships, that means devoting time and energy to establishing and nurturing your network.
- Have a plan and prepare. Be clear what you want to achieve and what success looks like;
- Ensure you adopt a blended approach, use both face to face and virtual networking;
- Be inclusive if you’re at a face to face event bring in those on the edge of the group;
- Follow-up with everyone you meet post event. This is vital, and is as simple as an invitation to connect via email or social media up to a week after meeting. Remember the event doesn’t end until your follow-ups are completed.
- Monopolise people;
- Contact those in your network only when you want something;
- Be indiscreet;
- Exclude others.
For me there are three mantras to successful networking:
- make the effort to do both face to face and social media networking;
- plan your conversation strategies (make sure you have prepared properly);
- nurture your network – devote time and energy to networking year round and you will benefit no end.