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3 Be’s to improve your networking abilities

January 21, 2013

3 ways to improve your networking abilities


As most people in the business world know, the ability of network with other effectively is one of the game-changing skills that can make the difference between having an incredibly successful career and seeing that career stagnate. This is especially important as business becomes more global and one begins to encounter increasing numbers of people from different cultural backgrounds with various unique perspectives.Once upon a time, I used to be consumed by social anxiety, which made the task of networking into an incredibly difficult challenge for me. The idea of going into a room and having to get to know a group of people who likely had little in common to me was as interesting as watching grass grow. Plus, I wasn’t good at it, which made it even harder.

Fortunately, my social anxiety began to fade during business school and I became more comfortable with navigating my way through crowds of people in a professional setting and initiating real conversations that would lead to longer-term connections. For the past couple of years, I’ve actually had people praise me on my networking abilities and I honestly believe that this has been an important past of my distinctiveness in the corporate world. Now that I’ve become a strong networker, I truly understand how important it is for a business professional to be proficient at it.

I’ve written a couple of posts about networking in the past and have wanted to add more content on the topic, but haven’t had time to do so. Recently, I connected with a networking expert named Jeff Owen, who has contributed his insights to several business blogs around the Web, and he agreed to produce an article on networking for sharing with my audience. Please see below for his contribution.

3 Ways to Improve Your Networking Abilities
By Jeff Owen

For those who have good networking skills, business networking events offer a fantastic way to promote yourself and your business. If you don’t have good networking skills, the idea of promoting yourself and spending several hours immersed in a group of people all trying to self-promote can seem anything but fantastic. Instead, it might seem daunting, boring, or even terrifying, depending on your temperament. For entrepreneurs and small business owners who don’t love networking, here are 3 ways you can improve your networking abilities to become a more effective networker and to enjoy networking more.

Tip #1: Be Interesting!
One of the things that many people hate about networking is that the people they talk to aren’t interesting. Someone introduces herself to you or you’re introduced by someone else, and, instead of having a witty, charming dialogue, you’re stuck listening to yet another “elevator speech” about someone else’s business. If you want to make networking fun for yourself and for the people who talk to you, don’t be this person. Instead of focusing on trying to sell your products or ideas or make your goal to tell everyone in the room one sentence about your business. Be an interesting person to talk to. Wear an unusual fashion accessory that’s a conversation starter, show off a magic trick, or tell a silly joke. Do anything that makes talking to you a break in the monotony for the other networkers.

Tip #2: Be Genuine
Another reason people don’t like networking is that it feels like they’re voluntarily putting themselves in a situation where everyone around them tries to sell them something. In addition, they feel like they have to do exactly the same thing. However, the people who get the most out of networking don’t focus on selling themselves or their business. They interact with others in a genuine and down-to-earth way. They might talk about their business, but they might also talk about their dog, their kids, or their hobbies. They focus more on making positive interpersonal connections rather than trying to get the name of their business on everyone’s lips.

Tip #3: Be Present
Reason number three why people hate networking? The people they talk to are inattentive. To stand out in a group of networkers and give people a lasting positive impression of you, simply be present and listen to others. While networking, many people don’t really listen and aren’t really “there” as they talk with others. During their interactions, they’re already thinking about the next thing they will say or the next person they will approach. When you talk with others, truly listen and give 100% of your attention to the person you talk with. Guaranteed you’ll be remembered as “that down-to-earth person with great conversation skills.”

For small business owners and entrepreneurs, networking can open the door for you to create relationships that lead to new business or new opportunities. Networking doesn’t have to be an unpleasant chore that simply comes with the territory of owning your own business. Become the kind of person you’d like to talk to and earn a reputation as one of the most memorable and interesting people at your networking event.

Jeff Owen is an avid blogger and business networking consultant. He enjoys sharing valuable networking information on various business blogs. Find out more about Meetings & Conventions Calgary.

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