At university my friends called me socializer. I have always loved to meet new people. For me, they are a steady source of knowledge, wisdom and inspiration. You could say I am a natural networker. But we all can widen our network of contacts and trusted relationships. Here are ten ideas for you to enhance your networking skills.
Expand your scope of interests
An excellent networker talks to tons of people. A wide spectrum of interests helps you to connect with a wide spectrum of people and personalities on different levels. Sports, history, music, opera, theater, art, cuisine, literature, politics – leave your comfort zone and get familiar with more topics. Reading weekly magazines like The Economist or Newsweek will boost your general knowledge.
Talk to anyone
If you filter your conversational partners, you have lost the networking game already. Some of the most inspiring conversations I have with my regular taxi driver Juan in Barcelona. The other day he told me: You are more useless than an ashtray on a motorbike. Job titles do not guarantee wisdom, but job titles laugh about Juan’s wisdom at cocktail parties.
Meet people for lunch – often
I never knew why I had this urge to meet people for lunch. But all my professional life has been driven by lunch meetings. You never know about their importance until you know. In my case, one specific lunch meeting that I had at the beginning of my public speaking career led to a series of trainings for an NGO. Those seminars paved the way to working for a big bank. Another recommendation from that bank led to a series of trainings for a Japanese multinational. The book title is right: Never eat alone!
Enter social clubs
I have to admit it: I am a social animal. So it is no wonder that I feel attracted to social clubs. Toastmasters, Rotary, Soho House, Circle of German Executives Barcelona – I love them! But it is also true that I have made many deep connections there with a wide variety of people from different angles of life. Social clubs are a fertile soil for networking.
Connect common ground
Whenever I detect common ground between two of my contacts, I do not hesitate to connect them.
Offer your help
When a contact calls me on the phone, normally, the first words coming out of my mouth are: How can I help you? Help is an attitude. A networker doesn’t wait for help; a networker helps – always!
Expect nothing in return
The more you actively connect people, the more you offer help to your contacts the more you could be tempted to expect favors in return. But no, never expect anything in return. This would ultimately lead into a dead-end road of hidden agendas. The Universe doesn’t forget your efforts; you will be rewarded sooner or later in life.
Ask for recommendations
When I had 59 clients as a pro speaker and trainer, only four were “cold” contacts. All others came through my network and most of them based on recommendations. Once you have established a good relationship with a contact, why not ask for a recommendation. Based on my experience, nothing beats recommendations in the world of professional services.
Treat everyone equally
From the man who kindly opens the door of your car at a parking lot to the CEO of a multinational company – treat everyone equally. Your kindness and empathy cannot wear a name tag.
Finally, the number one success factor in public speaking is authenticity. The same applies to networking. “Fake it till you make it” might work in other areas of life. But in networking you never want to think about which role it is that you need to play in a certain moment. The endgame of networking is to have as many trusted relationships as possible. Trust requires authenticity.