Getting the Most Out of Networking

Recently there seems to have been an explosion of business networking events.  businessOrganisations seem to have a renewed hunger for getting “out there” and meeting as many people as they can, desperate to shake off the recession and to “do business.”  However many people say that they do not enjoy networking events and try to shy away or avoid it completely.  As an event management company it often surprises us how some people prefer to arrive at an event late and leave early, perhaps to avoid any valuable networking time and then also seemingly aim to avoid all interaction with other attendees during break times by focusing solely on their phone, never even looking up and blanking everyone else around them.  Others embrace it, making useful new contacts and sparking ideas and collaborations for the future.

Love it or loathe it though networking effectively is an important part of business.  We hope this blog on networking will help minimise any uncomfortable situations and enable you to get the most out of any forthcoming networking opportunity.

Be Prepared

Never go to any business function, conference or networking event without business cards – and lots of them!  For a small investment you can ensure anyone you connect with has a way to contact you in the future.  Even if there is no immediate business opportunity you never know what may change or who that person will talk to down the line.  You want to ensure they have a card from you so they can hopefully dig out your business card when needed.  Think carefully about your business cards – do they stand out for the right reasons and represent your company, do they explain succinctly what you do, do they have all of the communication channels listed for you and the business?  Nowadays many people are adding their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn details on their business cards or even QR codes.

When you exchange business cards take a moment to look at the card and the person and try to memorize the two.  Whilst the contact is still fresh in your mind it may also be worth noting on the business card where you connected (we often note date, event and venue to jog my memory) and any particular business opportunities between you, for instance have they requested a brochure is sent out to them or would it be worthwhile to set up a meeting?

Explaining your Business

Can you succinctly introduce and explain what your business does?  The ultimate crime of networking is not explaining properly what your organisation actually does, presuming that it will be obvious from the business name or that the other person will know your industry like you do.  People will quickly lose interest if they do not understand properly from your brief introduction.  And under no circumstances should you use technical jargon as this will often switch people off.  Why are you different from your competitors?  What is your niche?

You should practise a brief clear introduction for the company and your role within it.  If you are looking to network and specifically find a business contact or requirement don’t be afraid to state this too – the person you have connected with may be able to introduce you to someone they would recommend or offer some advice even if they do not have an immediate direct need for your product or service.

Getting Started

Don’t forget that if you are feeling nervous others will be too.  When you first arrive look for other people that are not deep in conversation or ask to join onto a friendly looking group.  I always just simply say “Do you mind if I join you?” and so far I haven’t come across a group that hasn’t been accommodating.  Conversations can often be struck up easily at the refreshment table too.  Being confident to strike up a conversation does become easier with practice if it isn’t something that comes naturally to you at first.  Smile!

Don’t judge a book by its cover – you cannot tell by looking at someone what industry they work in or their seniority within the company.  I set up Events Northern Ltd at the age of 23.  I would hate to think that people may have passed over speaking to me thinking I was perhaps too young or not senior enough to make purchasing decisions.  Instead they would have connected with the top decision maker!  Talk to anyone and everyone.

Ensure the flow of conversation is fair – ask questions as well as giving information back.

Be positive!  People do not want to know about your personal problems, they are there to talk business.

Always give your full attention to the person you are talking to but don’t be afraid to move on when both parties have introduced themselves and cards have been exchanged.

Likewise do not be tempted just to talk to those you know and not to approach anyone new.

Seize every opportunity – after all if you don’t talk to people during this networking opportunity your paths may never cross again.  You want to be sure that you have made the most of it.

Follow up

After the event follow up on any warm leads and actions as soon as you can so it isn’t forgotten about.  Did you promise to send over a brochure or price list?  Would it be worthwhile to connect on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Google+?  Should you set up a meeting?  Under no circumstances should you be contacting or meeting with everyone you talked to – only those where there is a strong potential for future business.

Don’t forget to facilitate worthwhile connections between parties when you can.  In the world of business we strongly believe that “what goes around comes around” and you never know in the future when someone might return the favour.

With any event we organise we are always keen to allow time for networking as part of the schedule.  We ourselves are also embracing the influx and variety of networking events currently being scheduled and we are enjoying attending as many networking events as our diaries allow.

We hope our paths may cross at a future networking opportunity and if so make sure you say “hello!”

 

Have you got too many Facebook friends?

Facebook logo
Image via Wikipedia

We all know people that have amassed hundreds (or even thousands!) of Facebook friends.  Interestingly Facebook itself stipulates that your account friend limit is limited to 5,000 maximum contacts.

Are people really and truly that popular?
Are your Facebook friends actually “real” friends? 

In the 1990’s Professor Robin Dunbar (Head of ICEA, University of Oxford) identified that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom you can maintain “stable social relationships” (in other words friends).  No exact number can be given but this is commonly agreed to be a maximum of around 150 people.  This theory has become known as Dunbar’s number.  It seems that the average human mind is incapable of managing strong relationships with over 150 people as it is limited in essence by the size of the human brain.

This number doesn’t just relate to friendship groups either – numerous different studies have shown that Dunbar’s number also relates to any group – be that in terms of company size, tribes, civilisations, villages and so forth.  If above 150 the groups become difficult to manage and can naturally begin to break down and people leave or splinter off into smaller sub groups.

Do you have more than 150 friends?
Do you have more than 150 Facebook friends?

A meaningful relationship has been defined as a reciprocal bond based on trust, the understanding of who that person is, how that person is connected to other people and your ability to maintain a connection and understanding with that person.

Apparently no matter how sociable a person is, 150 is the maximum number of personal, reciprocated relationships that an individual can maintain (including friends and family).  Ongoing research by Dunbar has shown that social media does not change this pattern – despite many people having many more than 150 Facebook friends.

In theory, if you look honestly and closely into your own core circle of friends and family Dunbar’s number dictates that your true friendship group will number less than 150 people.  In real life (and mirrored on Facebook) these will be the people that you engage with the most and are the people that we can discuss important or personal matters with and that would be happy to do a favour for us if we asked them.

Of course Facebook and other social media channels give us the tools to conveniently connect and stay in touch with a larger number of people more easily.  It is also notable that Facebook perhaps enables people to stay in contact in situations where the friendship would have ended naturally otherwise.

The fact however remains that without getting together for real face to face contact relationships will eventually break down.  It seems that this is particularly important for men who are not as good as women at maintaining relationships just by talking to each other (now who would have guessed that?!).

In watching various interviews with Dunbar, to research this blog post he explains that face to face contact is so important because we are a very social species.  We need to trust people to maintain friendships and business relationships and understandably it seems that trust comes from looking each other in the eye and interacting on a personal level.  We take cues from facial expressions, touch and body language which either “tune us in” or not to the other person.  We need this physical experience to build connections and renew existing relationships.  Face to face interaction releases endorphins and a connection which simply cannot be triggered via virtual online conversations.  Friendships are fragile relationships which need nurturing to keep them on track.  Without this personal interaction sooner or later relationships will start to deteriorate.

As an event and conference management company Events Northern Ltd are big believers in meeting up face to face.  Of course we enjoy and see the value in using social media too, in both our work and personal lives, but we understand that it cannot replace or replicate the euphoria of a celebration or special occasion shared with close friends or the buzz, networking, ideas generation, selling and business opportunities of a conference or exhibition.

For us the moral of "Cheers!"this blog post is to enjoy Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc as part of your personal and working life but just don’t leave it too long until you meet up in person!  Time and effort need to go into personal relationships – regardless of whether they are of a personal or business nature.  Social media is a great way to keep in contact with both real friends, more casual acquaintances and contacts but don’t forget to connect face to face to ensure your real friendships and working relationships stay strong and true.

Events Northern dive into the blogging world

All of the team at Events Northern Headquarters are so excited to introduce our new addition to the family – our lovely blog!

Why not follow us and enjoy our blogging posts. We hope to provide interesting articles and discussions about the events industry and all other things related.

As detailed in our companies description, Events Northern primarily specialises in conference management. At the moment we are busy developing our new website which will be live very soon. Once published we would love to hear your thoughts.

We are also involved in tweeting on a daily basis via the @eventsnorthern Twitter account and posting comments via Facebook. Please click on the hyperlinks to be directed to the Events Northern pages. 
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and Twitter

We will be in touch again soon – happy blogging!