10 tips to become better at networking
Networking is a crucial element of Danish Business Council Dubai’s events and meetings (and in Dubai’s business world in general) but not everyone feels comfortable in this. That’s why we have gathered these 10 tips that are sure to make you a better networker.
1. Pay it forward
Always give more than you get! This is probably the most important rule about networking – but also where a lot of people (not you, of course) go wrong. Networking is a two-way street but you should always make sure that the other person (especially if you were to one to take the initiative to meet up) goes away with the most value. Consider it an investment in both time and resources. If the other person feels that he or she gets lots of value of his or her time, that person will be more inclined to help you out in the future.
2. Meeting the right people
Networking is good, but networking with the right people is better. Before you begin the game of networking, be sure that you know exactly what you want out of it. Perhaps you should create a mindmap, or maybe you should simply write down your goal. The important thing is that you are clear about what your goal is and how you can obtain it. If you don’t know, it’s very difficult for others to help you.
3. Always have an agenda!
Before you contact anyone that you want to meet up with, it is crucial that you do your homework BEFORE initializing a contact. First of all, you need to be clear about why you want to meet. Danish business advisor and networking entrepreneur, Soulaima Gourani, suggests you ask the four following questions before you contact business people that you don’t already know:
- What is the official purpose of the meeting?
- What can I offer the other person? What are her benefits of meeting up with me?
- What is my own agenda – why do I even want this meeting?
- How will I repay for the other person’s time, contacts and knowledge? (There are no such thing as a “free lunch” – it’s a myth)
Once you have the answer to all of these questions you are good to go. If you pitch your agenda in an interestingly way (and make sure the other person knows it will be worth her while) you are one big step closer to setting up that business lunch.
4. First impressions matter
Alright, so you know who you want to meet, the other person found your pitch so interesting that he or she has agreed to meet you and you have the business lunch set up. Now it’s time to get organized. Most business people have a very busy schedule. So the fact that they are taking their time to meet up with you at all says a lot.
But as we know, first impressions matter quite a bit. If you show up to the meeting unprepared you might as well not have shown up at all. Once again, do your homework; research on the person you’re meeting up with, create a whitepaper listing all that’s relevant. Everybody likes a compliment so make sure you tell the other person that you admire what she wrote on a relevant subject or that you were impressed with the way she handled a certain event in her career. But don’t overdo it! There is a very fine line between complimenting someone for her achievements and downright grovelling to the person. And that’s a definite no-go.
Bonus tip: don’t forget a firm handshake. Nobody likes the “dead fish” handshake so make sure yours are firm and powerful. And don’t forget the eye contact (but don’t make it creepy by staring too long).
5. Swapping business cards
Swapping business cards after the meeting is a great conversation ender. But your business card is only as powerful as the impression you made on the receiver so make sure you swap them right before you go each your separate way. Perhaps let the other person know that you will follow up one of the following days.
Bonus tip: keep a pen on you so you can note down on the backside of the business card what you talked to the person about. That way, if you get many cards during an event you’ll remember who is who.
6. Be the organizer
Sometimes you shouldn’t wait for the invitation to come to you. Instead, take charge and organize your own event – it could be a sundowner, a social event or a dinner with your colleagues. Or something complete fourth. Ask your colleagues to bring someone they think would benefit from and contribute to the event. Your bonus: you will be remembered by everybody that you were the one who organized it all and you will be recognized for your organizing skills.
7. Forget about yourself for a moment
This relates to the very first point but it is so important that it can stand a repetition. Networking is not about what you want or what you need. It’s about contributing to other people and in return they will be more than happy to help you back. Don’t ask for job or business opportunities unless you can bring something of equal value to the table, so to speak.
8. Take care of your body language
A lot of people are not aware of how they communicate with their body. But fact is that we communicate all the time, even (or perhaps especially) when we don’t say a word. Did you know that people who tend to cross their arms are regarded as closed-off? That is not what you want to signal when you are at a networking event. Make sure that you keep an open and inviting body language but don’t overdo it since you risk being seen as fake. Stay natural but avoid looking closed-off:
- Keep eye contact with the one you’re speaking to
- Keep a neutral posture
- Have a drink in your hand if you’re not sure where to put your arms
- Cross your arms
- Look around the room when talking to someone
9. Get out there
If you are really serious about networking, don’t just stick to your own crowd. Get out of your comfort zone and look up people who are in another industry than you, on another level than you and (since we are in a very international environment) talk to people who are from another country than you.
Start attending meetings and events, even though you might not feel it’s all that relevant to you. You would be surprised by what can come out of an informal talk after an interesting keynote speaker.
10. The aftermath
After a successful networking event or meeting, it’s important to follow up with those you connected with. Don’t wait for them to contact you – drop them an email afterwards saying how you enjoyed your talk and that you would like to meet up again and discuss further.
That was our 10 tips on networking, hopefully you enjoyed reading them. If you learned something new that is great. If not, that is great too because that means you are an awesome networker already.
In Danish Business Council Dubai we organize a lot of events, both business minded and social. Many of them are free to join (and you don’t even have to be a member) – others are for members only. Keep an eye on our website and our social media (we are present on Facebook and LinkedIn) to see when and where our next events take place.
PS: 9th of December we are planning a very interesting HR event that will focus on headhunting and recruitment in the UAE. Our keynote speaker will be Simon Stephens, who is Head of Frazer Jones Middle East, Global HR Search and Recruitment – so he knows a thing or two about what’s going on in HR in Dubai and how different nationalities act.