You don’t need to go on a management training course to improve your networking skills.  These simple steps outlined below will help to boost your confidence and get the most out of a networking event.

Step 1 – Believe in it. 

Networking is one of the best ways to enhance your business, because it gives people the chance to get to know and buy you.  At the end of the day people buy people and how can they buy you if they haven’t met you yet?

Step 2 – Do the numbers.

Whatever business you are in, you will have a rough idea of how many people you have to contact to make a sale.  For example if the ratio is  1:20, then think about how many people you could meet, one of whom may need your services, or at least know someone else who does.

Step 3 – Just to do it!

Many people don’t network because of their self doubt, fear or other negative thoughts they may have about it.  The best way to combat this is to feel the fear, but do it anyway.  Act a though you can’t fail, act as though you are already confident.  Ask yourself what one thing would I achieve if I knew I couldn’t fail? In reality, networking is just about meeting people and having conversations with them, which we do every day of the week, at work, in the pub or at a restaurant! Whether you believe you can or you cannot, you are probably right.

Step 4 – Make an impact.

It’s important to realise that when people first meet you, they will watch you and judge you, whether you like it or not.  So try to make yourself memorable, spend time in front of the mirror or ask for feedback from family and friends about how you come across.

Step 5 – Act as if you are the host.

This will help you to meet people as well as get you into the right “mindset”.  Think – what does a good host do?  They help their guests relax, they introduce them to other people and generally make them feel welcome.  When you next go to a networking event – think about how you can be the perfect host.

Step 6 – Don’t go to a networking event with colleagues.

Too often people go to a networking event with their colleagues or friends and fail to meet anyone new.  Remember your numbers (Step 2), the more people you make contact with the closer you will be to your next sale.  Set yourself a target of meeting 5-10 people.  Spend a few minutes talking to many people rather than many minutes talking to a few.

Step 7 – Be prepared with your “advert”.

At some time during a networking event, someone will ask you about your work.  The best way to respond is to have a 15-20 second “advert” that describes how you benefit your clients/customers.  For example, if you are a consultant or trainer, try introducing yourself as someone who helps businesses “improve productivity and profitability by resolving their people and performance issues”, not “I work for a small management training business in London”.

Step 8 – Be enthusiastic about what you do.

Enthusiasm and passion are contagious and will draw people to you at networking events.  If people believe you will be interesting and fun to deal with they are more likely to want to do business with you.

Step 9 – Listen more and talk less.

Interestingly many people worry about networking events because they are not sure what to say.  However, the more you listen to others, the more you will find out about their business and how you might be able to help them.

Step 10 – Follow up.

One of the biggest sins you can make is to fail to follow up after the event.  One of the best ways is to write down a few pointers after you have met each person.  Have you agreed to do anything for them (for example, send them a brochure)?  What might their needs be in the future?  Unless you write it down you will forget.  Follow up by giving them a call or dropping them an email in 3 or 4 days time, reminding them of your conversation and saying that you hope to keep in touch.  In reality, this takes little time to do, but it has a big impact.

You don’t need to go on a management training course to improve your networking skills.  Following the simple steps outlined above, combined with a little practice will improve your confidence and ability to network successfully.