3 Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills
If you’re an entrepreneur trying to grow a business, you should already be well acquainted with the world of networking. Attending events, conferences, or speaking with industry professionals is a fantastic first step, but are your efforts effective? Unfortunately, merely participating in networking activities does not accelerate your business; you need to form good quality connections. Building relationships that will help in your company’s growth requires good people and networking skills, which for many of us can be intimidating. To increase your confidence and abilities, we have outlined 3 ways to improve your networking skills.
What are effective networking strategies vs. skills?
To start, let’s differentiate between networking strategies and networking skills. When we talk about strategies, we are focusing on the what and where, and with skills we are focusing on the how.
Having networking strategies is definitely important — what types of events you will attend, what forms of networking you will use (online, in-person), and where the best networking locations are that are relevant to your business.
However, what is less frequently written about or discussed is the how. If you don’t know how to network effectively at events and do not have the right skills, you are missing out on opportunities to form high-quality connections with people who can make a significant impact on your business’ success.
How do you improve your networking skills?
There are always going to be people who learn and master skillsets more easily than others. For some people, networking skills come more naturally but for many others, this is an area we need to consciously try to improve.
Building and improving your communication and networking skills is something that should have no end. It is an area you can always work on.
Our ‘3 Ls’ that will help improve your networking skills:
When most people think of networking, they think about how they will speak to others about themselves and their business. This is only 50 percent of networking. Many forget about how important it is to be a good listener.
People enjoy speaking to individuals who are interested in what they have to say. Having a conversation is a two-way street, and nobody enjoys speaking with someone who only talks about themselves.
Listen actively and respond in conversations by referencing details. If you meet the same person at a second event, this is where you can really show you enjoyed speaking with them by referencing something they discussed the first time you met. This shows people you are genuine and invested in getting to know them.
Networking events are made up of professionals looking to network for business, but that does not mean you need to be super serious, stiff, and ultimately, boring.
The perfect balance is to come across as polished and professional as laid back and likable.
Loosening up a bit and approaching networking with the objective of forming human connections rather than networking your business can lead you to build stronger connections.
Sometimes, this means you are not discussing business at all.
Imagine you are having a great conversation with someone and they start telling you an amusing story from their past camping adventure. It is not wise, natural, or polite to cut them off to talk about business.
Continue this conversation with genuine interest, and it is almost a certainty that the conversation will organically lead to what you each do for work. The more organic and humanizing a conversation is, the better.
Nothing will make you more memorable and likable to others than if you share a good laugh.
We know not everyone is a comedian or life of the party, but if you can find ways to naturally insert humour into your conversations it will go a long way. Humourous people are often seen as more approachable and someone people want to spend time with, and adding humour into professional environments can have many benefits.
You do not need to rehearse jokes that will not flow into conversations, but if you see an opportunity to insert some humour, even if it’s subtle, it will make people around you more relaxed and therefore the quality of your conversation can end up being much better.
How do you continue building networking skills?
Continually improving and building your networking skills comes down to one solution: practice. Participating in more networking events, preferably in-person, will give you more opportunities to practice your networking skills so they eventually become easier.
Networking truly can help your business grow, but it is the how to network that will form great connections.
Senior Innovation Specialist &
STARTup Visa Program Manager