A Better Approach to Networking

How difficult do you find networking? Most people find this tough. Just the thought of it can bring on anxiety.

As humans, we have an innate need to be liked and the thought of failing to make a great impression is stressful. In the case of networking, we may be afraid that we will say the wrong thing, forget what we were going to say, or stumble over our words. Coupled with the need for approval, this can put us on edge and promote high levels of tension.

So how can you start to overcome this? Firstly – use questions. People who approach conversations with a curious mindset and ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by the people they are talking to and tend to build stronger connections – so focus on what you want to ASK not what you want to SAY.

Instead of preparing what you will say when meeting someone new or how you  will respond to questions from a stranger, focus on what you will ask in the networking scenario. Through practice sessions (always crucial) the nerves associated with meeting new people and networking will reduce. You will feel very much more comfortable striking up conversations.

Secondly – avoid ‘small talk’. Avoid standard ‘small talk’ questions like ‘’What do you do?” or “Where are you from?” Make a point of digging deeper. Why?

While many people believe that intense chats should be reserved for close friends. This belief is misguided. Deeper conversations, research shows, correlate with higher levels of happiness. We tend to underestimate how much other people, and especially first-time contacts, might enjoy and find satisfaction in meaningful conversation.

When meeting someone new, here are some conversational approaches you can make: 

“How does your particular work help your customers?’’ ‘’What problems does your business help others solve?’’ ‘’What aspects of your work motivates you the most?’’ ‘’What do you least enjoy and why?’’ ‘’What aspects of your work give you energy and keep you excited?”

“What is your current role?’’ ‘’What roles and positions have led you to where you are today?’’ ‘’Which ones helped you most along the way?”

“Where are you from?’’ ‘’What places have you lived in and travelled to during your educational/ career journey?’’ ‘’Which ones have helped shape your career path?’’ ‘’Which was your favourite and why?”

Here are a few additional questions to try:

“What are you most looking forward to in your career now?’’ ‘’What is the next thing you want to cross off of your career goals list?”

“When have you failed?’’ ‘’What did you learn?”

“What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?”

“What’s top of mind for you right now?’’ ‘’Is there any type of support you need right now?”

“What’s been the highlight of this week?’’ ‘’What’s been going well?’’ ‘’What’s   not going so well?’’ ‘’What challenges have you been grappling with?”

The person next to you would probably be happier talking about their passions and purpose than the weather and “what’s up?”

Never let anxiety stop you from making new connections. This avoidance can be a career/ business limiting and potentially career/business stalling move. If you go in with a curious mindset and come prepared with a few questions to ask, you can build more authentic connections with people while keeping your fears at bay. Questions are a powerful way to connect – the deeper the question, the deeper the connection.

Give it a try…..

Need some help with your networking skills? Get in touch with us at ignite@tinderboxbusinessdevelopment.co.uk or call us on 0116 232 5231.

Why not have a look at our online learning platform, E-Learn, where you can find our interactive video-based online courses which combine professional presenters, animated graphics, interactive games and questions to keep participants engaged and are available anytime, anyplace on any web-enabled device. E-Learn courses are developed in accordance with current legislation, accredited by industry leading associations and approved by professional bodies.

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The Tinderbox Team

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