It’s more than just swapping business cards
We are always told about the importance of networking; it’s all about who you know, right? From being able to benchmark your business against others, to sharing a common problem and finding out solutions, it can bring a myriad of benefits. There are plenty of articles on how to make the most of the networking event itself (such as this good one from Forbes).But in the age of technology and the ease of a LinkedIn request, how do you build those relationships to be useful to you after the event itself?
If you’ve met someone at an event, always send a LinkedIn request with a note to say how it was good to meet them. Don’t stop there though- use your LinkedIn to stay connected like you would on Facebook with a family member living overseas. Engage with their content, say congratulations on promotions and drop them relevant content directly if appropriate
If there is genuinely something you can learn from someone you meet, or if you have common interests, then organise to grab a coffee sometime in the following weeks or months. If you’ve met someone twice, then you can more easily connect with them in the future even if some time has passed
Now we can’t all be “influencers”. But having a business social media profile that is up to date, and to which you post consistent content, will help people remember who you are. As with above, it makes it easier to connect with people within your network that you haven’t spoken to for a long time. A message out of the blue to say “I’m in your city next week, how about a coffee to compare notes on how politics are impacting our businesses?” will be far better received if they’ve seen you “out and about” on social media and portray a relatable brand
For points 1-3, this is all about getting in to the habit of doing things. For those that don’t often use LinkedIn or similar professional networking sites, a simple weekly reminder in your work calendar titled “Networking follow up” can do the world of good. Just 30 minutes on a Monday afternoon will do the trick. Use the time to look over who you’ve met in the past week to add them on LinkedIn, along with sending some messages to new contacts, skimming other people’s updates and posting relevant content will do the world of good. Busy on a Monday afternoon? Be agile- just move it to another day!
But keep the connection any way! As someone who has worked in multiple industries, you’d be surprised at how often there are useful insights from people outside your remit. Make the connection, continue to build your profile, and see if there is something useful in the future
If someone works in a field of interest to you, or you think there is something you can learn from them, don’t be afraid to ask to pick their brain about it. Most people are generally happy to impart their wisdom providing you aren’t using it for commercial purposes. Utilise this tool to upskill yourself; using a new technology, exploring a new industry, or visiting a new City/ Country.
I’m not suggesting you post about social matters on LinkedIn. But when talking to people at networking events, find out “who” they are; who did they support in the Rugby World Cup, where do their kids go to university, where are they travelling to. It sounds obvious, but it makes building meaningful business relationships from networking so much easier.
Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of the networking that you do; there is nothing worse than spending an hour at a networking event that results in no more than some business cards. The wider your network, the more diverse the insights you see will be.
Rachel Underhill- Business Strategy Manager