Networking is an integral part of the business world, but despite that it doesn’t always come easy. A survey by the British Library in 2014 found that almost 50% of us feel nervous or embarrassed before having to attend a networking event. So, we’ve put together a list of things that might help the schmoozing go more smoothly so that you can really maximize your networking potential.

1. Just forget about business

Sometimes it can help to forget about business, and focus on the relationship. We are a social species and we’re all more likely to think of someone we know and like for an opportunity before we think about that super serious guy we met at a networking event once but didn’t really hit it off with.

So try and let your guard down, and let people see your personality. If they look like a worthwhile customer, by all means send them an email about the nitty-gritty details after the event.

2. Put the focus on them

Putting the focus on your conversation partner, particularly if you know you get nervous, makes the whole thing a lot easier as well as being a fail-safe way to make a good impression. Ask what they do, ask about their industry, ask what they think they need… and so on.

Then think about how you can help this person.

Again, you can forget about your specific business. For example, if they need help with their website you could easily help them out by simply putting them in contact with your web designer.

This way you will have helped out two people in your business network, and they will both be much more likely to return the favour later in the day. They will also be more likely to trust you opinion on other aspects of business after you have genuinely helped them out once before.

3. Don’t be afraid to leave

Thankfully, when you’re networking there’s no need to stay in a dying conversation just for the sake of being polite. So as soon as you feel you have got everything you need from a conversation, simply say it was great to meet them, swap cards, and bow out. You won’t offend anyone, as that is what everyone is there for after all.

4. Follow up

The event itself is simply the springboard for your new professional relationship. But what are the best ways to chase up a connection? The easiest is to send a specific follow up email with a few personal touches, drawing on any useful detail to deepen the connection and make yourself memorable. If they mentioned a book they’d been reading, for example, they might be interested to know that the author is giving a talk in their city next month. You could also set reminders once a month, or every few months, reminding you to check in.

Published on 4 December 2015