Effective networking skills are a perennial theme for business bloggers. I’ve written about it many times, and attended seminars designed to reassure those for whom corporate and official events are a challenge. Early on in your career it can seem insurmountable. As I’ve discovered, experienced based guidance is invaluable so I want to share with you how what I’ve been doing has improved my networking abilities.
Build your brand
I’ve spent the past few months creating a new brand. Previously I had a successful career in a London legal information environment, as well as an established interest in the art historical world. Although I’ve made use of existing contacts, a new venture requires a new focus. And given the challenges of flexible working in a foreign country, it has needed some creative thinking.
Online social networks have been invaluable. I’ve enjoyed creating a LinkedIn company page for my fledgling business and I am proud to share what I’m doing. My business briefing and quick news doesn’t go out for free every day, but when I do publish, it reaches people who value a news round-up. My existing contacts on LinkedIn have been largely engaged with my world view.
Finding the unusual in usual places
However LinkedIn isn’t the most active network that I have been targeting. Facebook has developed into an interesting alternative. One of the companies that I work for regularly has a very (inter)active and lively FB group and I follow them closely. This gives me an insight into the technical questions they ask, and they are becoming aware of my existence as a content provider. The other group has been ‘Expats meet Split’.
Using a primarily social group to establish a business brand was unthinkable when I first joined it. However there has been a recent change. My philosophy of information sharing, cultivating informed discussion, and an importance of awareness of world events seems to have struck a chord with others in the group. It has evolved into a community where local businesses meet creative expertise meet interesting individuals. And we still maintain a healthy social life.
Face to face, cheek to cheek
Engaging face to face is the best way of cementing your brand. So although people see online networks as essential, bonding with contacts in a physical environment is vital. Enterprising and organised members of Expats in Split recently created ‘Konekt’. This brought together local businesses from the leisure, entertainment and catering industries, with environmental specialists, web designers, and artists. Sharing experiences and expertise was central and I embraced it.
Read the news, be informed!
This brings me back to the concerns many people face when attending business-social events. When you bring together a mix of backgrounds, nationalities, languages, interests, specialisms, it can be daunting to confidently approach a group and strike up a conversation.
If you have been following recent local, national and international affairs, you immediately have a number of opening gambits. Even if you’re talking to someone in a different industry, you will have news interests in common. Iris Briefings gives you that edge. As you move confidently forward to join a group, when there is that conversational lull, you will be prepared. People will look around, you can catch someone’s eye and they then will welcome you into the group. Your knowledgeable air and professional interests will ensure that you become a valued contact. You will come to reflect your brand just by being you.