Love it or loathe it, networking is an essential part of face to face work across all sectors. Making contacts will open doors and create opportunities. Despite its importance, networking is not rocket science. Having said that, there are a few pointers that can help you on your way to becoming the king, or queen, of successful schmoozing.
1. Attend as many events as possible and be seen at them. Work the room and speak to as many people as possible. If you want to develop a network in a specific industry, find out what the key events are and go to them.
2. Be friendly. As well as looking for new faces, seek out individuals you have met previously and speak to them. Remind them who you are and what you spoke about before so they have a point of reference. Assume they met many people when they saw you last, and don't embarrass them by assuming they remember you.
3. Don't be afraid to use contacts you have made previously to help build up your network. Most people are happy to introduce you to a friend, colleague or acquaintance, especially if they can see that there might be a benefit there for someone.
4. Use events to make new contacts, but also try to arrange meetings and interactions with people away from the crowd. If you want someone to give up their time for a one to one, do make sure you have something to talk about that will capture their imagination and make it worth their while.
5. Ask for advice. Nothing makes people feel more important or valued than being asked for input. There is a fine line though, don’t ask for too much, especially when you are just getting to know each other.
6. Give back as much as you can, especially if you want to be seen as credible. Help others with ideas, contacts or providing useful information. You need to give as well as receive, just like in any relationship.
7. Networking can open doors and create new opportunities. But never ask for a favour from a contact you have only just met. Professional relationships need to have an element of trust, just like social relationships, and that takes time, patience and effort.
8. Don’t launch straight into a pitch. Chat first and see what you have in common, there will usually be some way to connect before getting down to business.
9. Make sure you get contact details. be explicit about how you will follow up, then do so the following day if possible. Phone, email or social networking, it doesn’t matter, just so long as you remind them who you are and reconnect as soon as possible.
10. Stay in touch. Don’t let contacts go cold. It’s all too easy to give up on the relationship when there isn't something you need, especially if you aren't a networker by nature.