Every week I speak to many people about networking and the skills and actions which are desirable to make the best possible success of their networking efforts.
What people often want to know is how to ‘make an impact’ in the room, ‘how to be popular’, ‘how to get people to refer to me’. Or similar questions along the same theme.
Sometimes people see it as a problem. Such as ‘I’m not part of the clique’, or ‘there are a bunch of people who get all the referrals, I never get a look in’.
The thing is though, being the ‘go-to’ person, or being one of the ones who gets all the referrals doesn’t happen by accident. It is perfectly possible to do stuff which will make you more popular, more referrable and, if you want to be, the most popular person in the room.
And it doesn’t mean you have to be the loudest, or have the best presentation skills, or the most fashionable dress sense. You don’t have to be the most confident or gregarious person in the room.
You just have to think about why everyone else is there, and act accordingly.
Here are a few things you can do, really quite simply, which will make elevate you in the opinion of the others in the room. Some of what I recommend can be an instant hit, some of it is a longer burn. The real opportunity, of course, is that most people won’t bother.
- Actively look for referrals for others. If you want to be the most popular person in the room, think one member at a time. Listen to what referrals people are looking for and then actively try to source them for them. Some of them might be really simple for you. Others might take you out of your comfort zone. But think about the impact on that one member when you tell them “actually I’ve tracked down a ‘phone number for George Smith at XYZ Ltd and even better than that, I’ve put in a good word for you, he’s expecting your call”. You are immediately the most popular person in the room with that one person. Rinse and repeat and your reputation will very quickly grow.
- Turn up early, help out newbies. Remember the first time you went to a new networking event? You weren’t sure of the format, or where to find the coffee, or where to find the toilets, or where you could and couldn’t sit? Why not be there early, at every meeting and be a friendly and helpful face to new people as they arrive looking like a rabbit in headlights. I remember the guy who helped me at first (Mike Goody, Coloursells Printing) and these people will remember you as someone generous and helpful.
- Bring visitors to the meeting. Every networking meeting loves new visitors. New blood in the group brings a different dynamic, more referral opportunities for all, and just keeps the group alive. Invite visitors, get out of your comfort zone and pick up the ‘phone to the types of businesses who would really benefit from being part of the group (if you have an estate agent in the room, there is a mortgage broker who would really love to meet them, if you have a web guy and a graphic designer in the room, there is a copywriter somewhere they would love to meet, you get the idea I hope). This is exactly the sort of thing that most people won’t do, so make a name for yourself by doing it.
- Become part of the group team. Who organises the networking meetings you attend? Do they need any help? This is an instant profile raiser if you get stuck in and become part of the leadership or organising team. Do it wholeheartedly though — you want that reputation rather than one for doing a halfhearted job.
- Smile. Yep, just be friendly. It is a whole lot easier to be popular if you at least look a little bit approachable. If you’re walking around with a face like a smacked arse, looking down at your ‘phone constantly, you are going to (and quite possibly on purpose) put people off speaking to you in the first place.
- Be consistent. Turn up regularly, allow people to get to know you over time. Be there so that you become part of the crowd, rather than turning up so infrequently that people struggle to remember your name.
These are just some ideas, and I really hope they are helpful to you. If you have any more, feel free to respond below.