Networking in the post GFC world is a tricky beast.
It seems the world has become divided into two camps – the endlessly sunny ‘radio personality’ for whom the world is a very happy place indeed, even if the grin has become a little fixed and the grip a little too intense. And those who give you the: ‘don’t talk to me about life in business’, before proceeding to tell you just how hard life in business really is. In detail.
In fact, I’m not entirely convinced that’s the GFC. I think that may just be how the networking world is naturally divided.
But I tend to find myself gravitating – and really wanting to do business with – a third networking personality. The active listener. These are the folks that turn up to an event, not just because networking is something they ought to do, but because they are genuinely interested in other people, and their businesses.
For many of us, networking can be hard work. If you are not the natural life and soul of any party (and to be honest, does anyone really want to stand next to them at an after 5?) it can be excruciating to throw yourself into a group of people you’ve never met before to talk about yourself and your business.
But the active listener has a real advantage. They seem like the world’s most engaging person, by actually saying very little. Like any great host, they are adept at soliciting information. They get people to feel at their ease, and communicate genuine interest in each guest.
Asking a few questions and really listening to the answers (rather than casting the odd sly glance over the other person’s shoulder in search of a more interesting alternative) can really pay off, both in terms of how at ease you feel at a networking event, and how much success you’ll have in making some genuine business connections.
And when it’s your turn to speak, it’s best to come prepared. Like readying for a pitch or an interview, you know that certain questions are going to come up. So it doesn’t hurt to have a few good answers prepared. And even though business may be getting you down, try to frame your responses in a positive light – so people can see you are up to the challenge, rather than desperately struggling.
And never, ever, double dip the cheese spread and crackers!!