The Art of Authentic Networking

Posted on October 24, 2018

It’s recommended that professionals should try and spend as much as 20% of their time on networking activities.

Many argue that the most effective networking comes from forming genuine relationships rather than from exchanging bitesize sales pitches and business cards. So how might the idea that “networking events are not all about you” help professionals in developing their careers?

Core to making the most of networking events is the ability to create meaningful, professional relationships for yourself and others, and to build trust within those relationships. 

Networking is a learned behaviour centred on you applying your interpersonal skills genuinely and creatively towards fostering real connections.

Here are some of the best ways you can do that…

Listening.

Listening is an act of respect that requires you to be present, responsive and sincerely engaged in what the other person is saying. Trust and warmth are created when people feel understood and valued – for this to happen they require the opportunity to do a lot of sharing. Through active listening you demonstrate your capacity for understanding and appreciation, and can begin to foster a real connection with the person you are listening to.

Asking questions.   

To be interesting, you must first be interested!

Being attentive by asking questions that get people thinking about themselves and their accomplishments it a great way to associate that excitement with meeting you. It’s also a way to reveal something about yourself. Tony Robbins says that ‘the quality of your questions correlate to the quality of your life’. By asking creative questions that invite people to think differently you are not only providing an insight into your own way of thinking, you are also facilitating an opportunity for the other person to think in a new way. Your questions can help others to grow as a result of the conversation they have shared with you, which is both inspiring and contributes to the building of meaningful professional relationships.

Be genuine by avoiding the ‘Robot Response’.  

Dr Travis Bradberry, researcher of ‘leadership performance’ and ’emotional intelligence’ shares that

‘people gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel’.

So give yourself permission to answer questions in a sincere and honest way… making your responses personal sets the foundations for sincere connections to to be nurtured.

Use positive body language.

Bringing awareness to your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice and consciously designing them to be positive and inviting will encourage people to approach you. Having an open and confident posture, and maintaining eye contact will help people to feel comfortable and engaged in their interaction with you.

Make time (and preparation) for small talk .

Research shows that starting meetings with just five minutes of small talk gets better results, so before attending a networking event, take time to prepare some questions that might be relevant for people attending the event, these could include topics such as your location or venue, movies, food, restaurants, hobbies, sports or the weather. There’s also the matter of holding conversations. Networking Guru Jon Levy always has a topic ready to fill in moments of uncomfortable silence that can often arise – “I always have a story of something I’ve been doing recently or a book that I’ve been reading,” he says.

Relationships are built steadily over time; developing a professional network requires daily attention, and does not happen overnight. By using your next networking event to put these skills into practice you will be consciously designing you conversations towards fostering authentic connections based on respect and trust – the foundations for meaningful professional relationships.

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