Janet & Esther with Gina (a Barclays Digital Eagle) at the Barclays Huddersfield Digital Business Club

Janet & Esther with Gina (a Barclays Digital Eagle) at the Barclays Huddersfield Digital Business Club – January 2015

Are you a networking pro or do you find it hard to engage in a conversation and present yourself to other people? Does it come natural or is it something you have to learn?

Within business it’s vital to be able to interact with both clients and fellow businessmen and women in a professional but friendly manor. This is not just to help develop a healthy relationship with both client and other businesses but you also represent your business as well. So presentation is important; both appearance and how you conduct yourself.

Here are a few very simple pointers to help you on your networking path:

1. Wear something smart and appropriate – first impressions count (as vein as it sounds, it is true that people often judge a book by its cover). With this in mind, hear my heart, I’m not saying you have to dress to “fit in” – you can still be yourself and keep your style. Just keep it smart!

Janet and Esther at BNI Terriers Huddersfield

Janet took Esther to BNI Terriers (networking) to meet everyone!

For example: from a young designers’ point of view I personally didn’t want to go to interviews suited and booted like everyone else – that’s just not me! BUT I understood the importance of presenting myself in a professional manor. So I decided to go with a fun but smart outfit which reflected both my personality and profession. Yes I wore a shirt and fitted jacket but I coupled those with smart, tan trousers and polished black shoes (always keep your shoes clean!!) As a girl I also accessorised using funky and chunky jewellery.  It was a smart outfit that reflected my character – without being overpowering!

2. Never underestimate the power of a good, strong handshake! It’s a classic greeting within the business world and can say a lot about you. A weak handshake (in general) reads; lack of confidence, quiet and closed off. A strong (but not bone crushing) handshake reads; confident, interested and willing to connect. A handshake is usually one of the first greetings you give/receive within the networking world. Don’t give people an excuse to forget you – make it count!

3. Body language is another key element to networking. Be aware of your posture, stance and space. Again your body language can speak more words than whatever comes out of your mouth – what vibes are you giving off? If your body language doesn’t match your dialogue, the listeners won’t believe it’s authentic! It’ll give them reason to question your motives.

On another note, you’re not at a dating event! It’s a professional business environment, remember to act appropriately at all times.  You are representing your business (or the company you work for!)

4. Keep good eye-contact. I’m not a psychologist but I know I personally get annoyed if someone can’t look me in the eye whilst talking to me about their lunch never mind when it’s in a business setting. To me, this is as important as a good hand-shake. It reads very similarly. Good eye contact reflects confidence, interest and also indicates that you’re telling the truth.

Janet & Esther at a Social Sharing Networking Event

5. Be mindful of the way you converse. A discussion is a two-way thing. Networking is about a mutual interest to connect with other people – not just “what can I get out of them?”. Ask people questions and get to know them – don’t always talk shop!

Talking to complete strangers is a very daunting task for some people and for others it is simply a challenge to thrive on. Either way, it is not a race and it’s always best to remain calm and pause every now and then to collect yourself before answering a question (this is also true within an interview but that’s another topic…).

6. Finally my last point (although there are many more I’m sure) always carry plenty of business cards! You never know when or who you’ll bump into and connect with! Business Cards are another way that authenticates your business – another vein truth so make your branding strong (which is again another topic…)! Don’t give them a reason to forget you!

Business Cards are vital for networking! ALWAYS have them on you! You never know who'll you'll bump into or when...

Business Cards are vital for networking! ALWAYS have them on you! You never know who’ll you’ll bump into or when…

So to conclude I may not be the most experienced 24 year old Social Media Account Manager in the world but I do hope that these six simple pointers are helpful for at least one reader. Most of these ‘skills’ I have learned over the years from my parents and also from Janet whilst I’ve been here at Social Progress. If I can do it so can you! As with anything it just takes practice and a bit of encouragement.

With this in mind, Social Progress host events that offer the perfect opportunity for you to either start or develop your networking journey! There’s no time like the present!

Social Sharing Networking is an event put on especially for local businessmen and women to network. We also have a different featured speaker each meeting. The featured speaker delivers a presentation which benefits each attendee which then benefits their business – it’s a chance to learn something new. Sound interesting? Keep your eyes peeled on our “What’s On” Page for the next date!

We also have #RetroFriday – this is a FREE networking event for businessmen and women who are local (Huddersfield, Honley, Holmfirth, Barnsley, Wakefield or Halifax) to come and have a chat over a good cup of Fairtrade tea or coffee. Again head over to our “What’s On” Page for more details and the next date.

Many businessmen and women have already benefited from these networking events in the past and we look forward to many more!

P.s. If you do book to come along don’t forget to bring a wad of your business cards and come and say Hi to me, Esther Orridge!

(Do let us know if you’ve benefited from this post “Networking: Natural Talent or Taught?”  – it’d be nice to hear back from you).