Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone but with some proper planning, it doesn’t have to be quite so hard. In this guest piece, Guy Guillemard shares his top tips to make the most of your mingling. 

People do business with people they know – make it count, have a plan. If your success depends on meeting people who need your skills, you will already know that you can be the most brilliant lawyer, consultant, banker, trainer or recruiter on the planet… but if you do not know people and they do not know you, you will almost certainly wither and die. Do more networking and have a plan.

Get there early. You may be Mr Popular or Miss Congeniality and on everyone’s invitation list. Or do you find there are only two or three useful events each month to which you are invited? Either way, almost every business occasion has 30 minutes mingling, before the main event (whether a speech, business panel, concert, etc.) begins. Don’t be the swot who stays in the office to send out two more emails and arrives panting, ten minutes before the curtain goes up. Be one of the first to arrive. Look at the badges at registration and see who you’d really like to meet. It’s easy to join groups and start conversing when there are less than ten of you in the room. Thirty minutes mingling time is 300% more valuable than ten.

Don’t flock to the people you already know. Human beings are social animals, with a herd and safety instinct that impels us to seek out people we already know – even colleagues we see in the office daily. Greet them with a smile, a friendly wave or catch them later, but focus on the new people. You are likely to learn more from them, make a friend or a useful contact that you can help. You want to add to your network: build a circle of connections who know you and can introduce you. 

You are not there to sell. People can tell it a mile off. It’s usually a put-off. If you are trying to win them as a future client, let that emerge as a by-product of pleasant, natural social interaction. Most people do not want to focus on your business; don’t want to talk about law, insurance, real estate, asset management or logistics. They want to enjoy the occasion, learn new things and make new connections. Some like to talk about themselves. Exchange names, handshakes, business cards. Have some pleasant interchange to move you steadily up the rungs of the ladder from first contact to friendship. Don’t hog the conversation or try to sell your services and skills. Listen rather more than you talk.

Give to get. Be generous with your knowledge and connections. Many of us tend to ask or to sell – too early: “Could we introduce our business?” or “Could we pitch for your next piece of work?” and even “Could my kid Tammy intern with your firm?” Focus on THEM and understand the people you meet. What interests them? What challenges are they facing? Might you might be able to help them, or know someone who can? The common phrase “You become interesting when you become interested” rings true. Offer to share some research. Forward a great article. Can you connect the person with someone who may be able to help them or who shares the same hobby or passion? Isn’t that a much better stepping-stone than pushing for a presentation opportunity?

Giving is more effective than asking or taking. There is a balance, a natural reciprocity in life between people of good character. People who help others first tend to be liked, trusted, remembered, recommended and offered reciprocal help.

This piece is written by Dubai-based Guy Guillemard, an experienced trainer and coach with PDSi. PDSi helps individuals and organisations get even better at what they do best. Guy’s focus is on relationship building, networking, business development and people skills, working across all sectors. He has 25 years’ experience in management, leadership, ownership, consulting and training in MENA and a decade in Asia. For more information see: www.pds-i.com

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