Flex your networking muscles

With a raft of professional connections at the end of our fingertips it is easy for us to mindlessly tick the networking box, yes of course we’re good at it- we have the followers to prove it. But when our digital personas are shoved away in pocket or bag and we’re faced with an actual event, it can feel a little like doing a once religiously attended spin class after a slothful few months when walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift was deserving of a pat on the back. As we get into the swing of the event, those networking muscles that used to be flexed regularly say hello. They are feeling a little flabby and unsure; but actually it turns out that all that running up and down stairs has actually made an impact, you’re spinning with the best of them. Here we look at how online networking practices can assist with face to face networking.

Chances are you accept virtual connection requests rather rapidly; it’s all laid out for you to make a quick decision, name- check, company- check. You are open to engaging with others, to new opportunities and it’s no big commitment on your part. Yet faced with a room of unknown faces, you prevaricate, who to speak with? Your investment has risen, we’re not talking about a few seconds here but possibly five minutes of speaking with someone new and that impacts greatly upon who we approach, or choose not to approach. Try to take your virtual open mind with you to events, with an interest in others and a willingness to help that equals your willingness to be helped.

The screen is the ultimate shield

Equally, when the balance is tipped towards online rather than face to face networking, and we step out of the bubble, it can all feel a little strange. The screen we sit behind is the ultimate shield, it protects us and from behind it we can be more confident to approach or instigate contact knowing that an online rejection is less visible to others. Don’t lose this assurance when you set out face to face, remember that others are there for the same reasons you are, to network, explore new opportunities and develop relationships. You’d be happy to engage with the person online, so do it face to face too.

So, you’re open to meeting anyone and everyone at the event, you’re happy to make the first move, but how to ensure a positive, enriching conversation? When networking online you might write or share articles to develop relationships, perhaps sending something you think would be of interest to a specific contact. Your online content can assist to position yourself as someone with a worthwhile opinion, so make sure you are as prepared to do this face to face. Have some relevant stories to share, and introduce when the time feels right. Although of course online networking is two way, a conversation of two or more with each party having a chance to share and have their say. Online etiquette dictates that whilst it is great to share content, it is also good to engage with what others are putting out there. Take these principles to your face to face networking events, talking is great but listening is key.

Opening the door is the most difficult part

Face to face networking isn’t that different to online networking; the most difficult part is often pulling open the doors to that spin class to be greeted with 20 expectant faces looking back at you, you imagine them questioning your fitness, your ability to perform. Well now, you can look each and every person in the eye with a confidence that comes from knowing you have all the networking skills you need.

About the Author

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, www.luxuryacademy.co.uk, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Vishakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.