We held a Networking Masterclass for young professionals at Lexis PR yesterday and invited uber-networker Oli Barrett to share his secrets. I learnt a lot - this is what he said:
The point of networking is to attract opportunities. Rather than spend lots of hours, money and effort chasing opportunities, you really want to get into the position where you attract interesting opportunities. There are three ways to do this.
1) Raise your profile
2) Create goodwill
3) Keep in touch
There are all kinds of ways to raise your profile - the simplest way is to go along to more events, speak at events, write articles or a regular column, or a blog, get in touch with people you want to get to know and ask if you can pick their brains about a particular topic over a coffee. Keep doing these things and you will start to get known. The important thing is that raising your profile needs to go hand in hand with creating goodwill. It's no good getting well known if everyone things you're a bit of a wally.
To create goodwill, get into the habit of sharing useful information. When you read an article that you've enjoyed, don't keep it to yourself. Think about who else would find it interesting and send the link in an email - do it straight away - it only takes 20 seconds. Keep you eyes open for gems, nuggets, intelligence and share it with people you've met. Let people know about interesting events and invite them along as your guest.
Be a connector. Make introductions between people who you think would benefit from knowing each other. Again - just a simple email to broker the introduction - then leave them to it. Obviously make sure it's always a relevant article, invite or introduction. People will really appreciate the thought you've put in and remember you for it. You will become known as a helpful, generous, connected person who passes on useful information - people will always be delighted to hear from you.
Generating goodwill also gives you a great reason to keep in touch with people. Sending people an email to say 'good to meet you, let's keep in touch' is a waste- it just clogs up the in-box. However, an email with a useful nugget attached is a much better way to maintain contact - or re-establish contact with people you have met in the past.
Another way to keep in touch with lots of people is to host an event - it can be a simple get together in a bar - invite a mixture of people you have met so they can network with each other. Oli does this once a month and uses Speednetworking to get people talking. There are lots of light touch ways to keep in touch too - I heard of one company that sent each of their clients a lottery ticket when the jackpot reached £5million.
Email and phone calls are obviously the best ways to keep in touch and Oli had some quirky techniques for both of these. Here is one very simple tip - if you send someone an email and they don't respond. Go back to your sent box and forward the exact same email but put at the top in a different colour type Dear x, did you get a chance to read this email below, Regards x. Leave it at that. Don't send a separate new email because they will have to hunt for the original one. Just send them a prompt - it works every time.
The key point to remember is that 80% of opportunities come from people you already know. So if you raise your profile, generate good will and keep in touch, opportunities will be beating a path to your door! If you've got any comments, tips, ideas or stories on this, post them here....