By Erika Kelland & Erin Molloy, Twine PR, with guest Natalie Hand.
Networking. How do you define it?
Our answer isn’t short. Networking presents itself in so many forms—you may be halfway through an opportunity and not even know it. It can that natural. Erin carries business cards in her daughter’s diaper bag, and Erika runs into clients and professional contacts everywhere—the gym, the grocery store, you name it. Networking can happen anywhere, anytime, and with many outcomes. If we started thinking of it in this way, not as something that takes place in a venue that’s forced upon us, maybe it wouldn’t be so intimidating.
The truth is, networking can be fun and rewarding and look nothing like working your way around a hotel ballroom with your tiny cup of coffee. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a time and place for every type—the more traditional methods can be very effective for you and your company. But that’s just it, there are many styles.
We could talk about the nuanced art of networking all day, but we thought we would ask the person we believe to be an exceptional networker and relationship-builder, Natalie Hand, a partner with Meridia Recruitment, to chime in. If you have ever met Natalie, you know what we mean. She has the ability to inspire others to become better networkers and is a wonderful person to be around. Take it away, Natalie!
How do you define networking?
It may be purposeful for you and your business, or it could be connecting others. The key to networking is mutual benefit—exchanging ideas and information of common interest, which is different from traditional sales.
Networking could be an event like a mixer or reception, a conference, or a business luncheon. It could also be a one-on-one coffee meeting, or it might be done online using social media platforms like LinkedIn. Networking also includes volunteer involvement and board representation.
Why is networking so important?
Newfoundland and Labrador is a relationship-driven province, so networking is built into everything here. Getting out there is part of the work day.
You walk into the ballroom—now what?
My advice is to jump in: walk over to someone new, shake their hand, and introduce yourself. Tell them who you are and where you work, then ask them the same question. Focus on the person or people you are taking to. Make sure they feel like the most important person in the room.
Traditional forms of networking can be intimidating to many of us. What are your tips on how to combat nerves?
Remember that most people in the room are nervous too. You do not need to conquer the whole room at once. A few meaningful conversations will go a long way. The notion that you should make a big sale or deal in that moment is unrealistic.
What should you do following a networking event?
Immediately, I make note of any important leads or useful pieces of information that I have gathered, and most importantly, I always follow up: I make that a habit. I will email a short note to the people I connected with to say thanks and let them know I am interested in staying in touch.
What does successful networking look like to you?
Networking is an ongoing process. It is not a box you can tick and say that it is done, but rather a constant effort of building and expanding relationships. It should get easier; practice makes perfect. Eventually the nerves will ease and the whole process will come naturally.
We’re continuing the conversation with more tips from Natalie on our blog. Visit twinepr.com/blog for more.
Erika Kelland & Erin Molloy,
Erika Kelland and Erin Molloy are the partners and owners of Twine PR, a public relations firm on the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Twine brings together two or more pieces to form a stronger bond, which is the drive behind every client relationship and project. “We get to know you by starting all projects with helping you identify and define your direction and by analyzing and assessing your current and previous goals, needs, and results. Whether it is through public relations strategy and counsel, strategic planning, or experiential marketing and communications, Twine PR pushes beyond the smoke and mirrors to focus on what matters—you. Our approach is mindful of all business goals, and the integrity of your company is not only honoured, but strengthened.”