While we all know the importance of networking to having the career and life we want, the idea of networking can evoke many different reactions, often more negative than positive. And most importantly can it be done tastefully and authentically? The attendees of QLD’s latest NAWO Quick Bite, ‘Tasteful and authentic networking? Yes, there is such a thing!‘, pondered these issues and more. Thanks to Kartini Oei Transformation Manager – ANZ, Air BP and Chair of NAWO’s QLD State Committee and Toni Dugdale, Community Relations and Communications Advisor, Caltex Refinery and Member of NAWO’s QLD State Committee for sharing the following event messages. And special thanks to Gold NAWO Corporate Member BP for generously hosting this event.
Alvin Cooney sharing networking tips at NAWO’s QLD Quick Bite hosted by BP
After some initial networking over lunch as attendees arrived, we settled down to listen to the fabulous guest speaker, Alvin Cooney from Asentiv Australia share his tips to ensure our networking is authentic and has the best possible chance of being influential. After years of running his own businesses where networking was key to his success, Alvin now spends his time helping others do the same.
Alvin opened the session with his definition of networking: “Networking is everything you do with friends, family, kids, colleagues, and strangers. But more specifically networking can be defined as being visible while also being credible to further a relationship to make it profitable”. He went on to discuss how profitable doesn’t just mean financial, but also includes things like information sharing, time and efficiency gains, assistance etc.
Alvin then went on to discuss how the motivation you go into a networking event with is key. He believes networks can be categorised three ways, and the type of network should match your motivation to attend:
- An information network – places you go to seek and give information from and to people;
- a support network – a network you can seek inspiration from, vent to, go and have fun at and vice versa; and
- a referrals network – a network where you go to make introductions and be introduced, with the goal of growing your business/selling your product.
He also shared seven key tips to what he believes makes for a successful and authentic networking approach, regardless of its purpose:
- Be conversation ready. Make sure you enter the event with something to say that is relevant to the audience. Google can be your best friend. Alvin gave the example of an Irish networking event he recently attended where prior he googled the weather, sports updates and local news to ensure he had a starting point for conversation.
- Take a buddy, never network alone. A buddy will give you confidence when entering the room and during the event. But taking a buddy is not so you can stick together the whole night, the buddy is there to help facilitate introductions for you to people they meet and vice versa.
- Have a flavoured answer to the question…”What do you do?” It is inevitable that you will be asked “so what is it that you do?” Answering “I’m an engineer” is not likely to catch people’s attention. Conversely “I spend my days ensuring our facility doesn’t explode” is a lot more interesting on the surface and more likely to lead to a conversation. Alvin went on to explain that you can have more than one flavour answer to suit the event so that you have a ‘toolbox’ to dip into for different people. He also stressed that having a flavour answer avoids putting you ‘into a box’. As an example, if your introduction is ‘I am an accountant’ may automatically give the person you are talking to an impression that you are of no ‘use’ to them and therefore they are mentally pulling back before you begin. Having a ‘flavoured answer’ which generates conversation gives you the best opportunity to start a useful relationship with the other person.
- Be first to ask…”How you I help?” or “What type of business are you after?” or “What success are you experiencing?” or “What is challenging you at the moment?”. This type of question is not only respectful and generates open conversation, but shows you have an interest. As humans are 70% reciprocal, the other person is more likely to ask you something in return. This is your opportunity to ask for what you want.
- Don’t tell people what you do. Instead tell them who you want to do it to. Rather than saying you are an accountant and my day looks like… share a successful experience. It is more exciting and energising and leads to open conversation.
- Learn to be a promoter (especially for sales events). However, remember your motivation. You are not there to make a sale, but to help people. The by-product of giving is receiving. Make sure you are ready to promote your buddy you went to the event with, and equally, they are ready to promote you.
- Have a way of following up. This is the key, if you can’t follow up then there is no point putting in the effort to turn up. As an example, send a thank you email. Whatever you do, do it immediately after you leave the networking event, otherwise you imply that the other person was not important enough to make you remember them and want to help.
Alvin’s final thought was to think about where and when you do your networking. You don’t want to go to ‘the opening of an envelope’. It is possible to be too visible, which then hurts your credibility. Take the time and do your research to make sure that the networking events you attend are worthwhile.
Members enjoyed time at the end to practise our new skills, including developing and sharing a ‘flavour answer’ so we all left feeling a little more equipped to tackle networking with confidence. Hopefully the volume in the room was an indicator of a valuable and good time had by all. We certainly left with some great tools for successful networking in the future and we’re sure everyone else did, too!
We received some great feedback on the event via LinkedIn – check it out here.
Networking at NAWO’s QLD Quick Bite
Kartini Oei and Alvin Cooney