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Library: 7 easy tips to help you network


by Jaeneen Cunningham

The changes we are seeing in the shape, size and configuration of modern corporations means flatter structures with a more flexible workforce. As a result, the number of self-employed workers entering your market is increasing by the day. The small and micro business segment is the fastest growing area of business in Australia. Networking is one skill you need to practice to get ahead and survive these competitive times.

Put simply, business networking is the process of establishing a beneficial relationship with other business people for the purpose of developing potential clients and customers. However, the practice of networking is not always so simple.

According to surveys, sole traders claim 80% of their business is derived through their networking activities. However, they also state that up to 80% of their networking activities are ineffective! If this is so, imagine what would happen to revenue if this last statistic could be improved by as little as 20 or 30%.

There are lots of ways to make sure your networking is effective but there is a lot to learn to be an effective networker. To help you, here are 7 easy tips to get you going.

1. Dress for the occasion and arrive a few minutes early
Most business networking events require business casual unless they state otherwise. Your appearance should reflect the way you work or better because good first impressions make a positive impact. A person will form a first impression about you within the first 5 seconds of meeting you so it is important to get this right.

2. Bring your business cards and something to write with
Obviously a business card is a must at a business networking event. Make sure that yours is helping you achieve the aim of a good first impression. It is really unacceptable to hand someone a poorly presented card and expect them to take your business seriously. Also, donít forget to bring a pen and note pad. These days some people prefer Blackberryís or other portable electronics. If this is you make sure youíre proficient in their use. Fumbling with an IPhone is not something you need to be doing.

3. Relax and aim to meet 5 about people
Some people become very stressed at a business networking event. Donít try to do too much. You can really only comfortably meet about five people in the time you have at most events. If you want to rush from person to person then you have forgotten that you are there to develop new relationships. This can only be done at a slower pace because relationships are built on trust and this takes time. Leave the racing from person to person for speed networking if thatís what you prefer.

4. Remember you are also a resource to others
You may not realise it now but you are a resource to others. You are in some way an expert in what you do. You could be an expert at sharing contacts with people who are experts in their field or you might be expert in yours. When you are a source of information to people you increase your value to them and they will want to know you better. However, be very careful not to be a know-it-all or be too pushy with what or who you know; always have the intent to be helpful and it will be greatly remembered and appreciated.

5. Be Pleasant, Relaxed and Polite
At a business networking event always be respectful and mannerly. Never interrupt while someone else is talking.

6. Be yourself and be genuine.
At a business networking event, there will be a lot of exchange of light conversation because many are meeting people for the first time. Once you are past this, ask questions like: how long have they been in business, how many locations they have or what got them started in business to begin with. These types of questions will draw someone out and allow them to talk a bit moreso that you can get to know them. Remember: itís much easier to be interested than interesting.

7. Ask for their card
With each person that you meet and have a conversation, politely ask them for one of their business cards. The exchange of cards is a very common activity at business networking events but often you can come away with too many cards so try to be selective of who you ask. Discretely make notes on the back of the card of things you talked about to jog your memory later on when you want to follow-up with them.

Make sure that you add your new contacts to your database or contact list after each event. Stay in touch with them as often as required and think of them when you are looking to refer someone. The object of business networking is to building a business relationships that will be mutually beneficial. Do your networking well and you You will soon have hundreds of people who you will no longer call "contacts"; they will be called your friends.

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Jaeneen Cunningham has built a profitable financial services company, Equitylend Finance Soultions through the use of business networking alone. In 2003 she was a finalist in the Queensland Telstra Businesswomen's Awards and that same year she was named "Manager of the Year" by the Women in Finance Association. Jaeneen is a partner in Integr8 Networking.



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"Jaeneen is smart, articulate and always generous with her time and ideas. She is an effective presenter, able to quickly assess her audience's knowledge and interest, targeting her messages accordingly." Karyn Brinkley
The Brisbane Institute