Business networking is an essential ingredient for business success. A strong network can build your knowledge base with shared learning; increase the size of your customer base; and create a profile for you in the business community in general. It’s a rewarding part of doing business, but it can also be very time consuming.
If you’re a keen networker you might find that your local cafe starts feeling like your second office. If your networking meetings are dominating your diary and your head starts buzzing from a few too many coffees, it’s possible you’re at risk of networking overload. Try spreading the load and take a look at our four simple steps for business networking with ease.
1. Avoid back-to-back networking meetings
It’s not uncommon to have a diary filled with back-to-back meetings, and most of us can survive this for a limited period of time. But there is a specific requirement of networking meetings – positivity, enthusiasm, sharing – that can lead them to be draining if you don’t spread them out in your diary.
A great tip is to consider booking your networking meetings for the beginning or end of your day. You can make this time efficient by aligning it with your journey to or from work, and it will allow you to dedicate some clear 1:1 time to the person you’re meeting.
2. Let your guest take the lead
When you’re just starting to build a relationship, the decision about what to order from the cafe menu can feel loaded with meaning. The easiest way to avoid judgement is to allow your guest to take the lead. If they feel like coffee then you can mirror their suggestion and get one for yourself too. If they decide they would like a muffin then you can order one to put them at their ease.
3. Don’t overstimulate yourself
The biggest challenge of too many cafe catch ups is that the caffeine can start building up in your system. But if you’ve invited someone for a coffee then it can feel a bit strange ordering something else. The easiest option is to opt for decaffeinated coffee and explain that you’ve already had your caffeine hit for the day. By avoiding groups of networking meetings back to back you can also steer clear of this becoming an issue.
4. Avoid food
If you’ve booked a meeting so that you can talk, then ordering food is very unlikely to work for you. It’s actually likely to get in the way of conversation. Try and avoid lunch meetings or food until you’ve established the relationship well and you’re no longer at risk of uncomfortable silences. If your guest orders something to eat then opt for a light alternative. If you’re hungry, grab something to-go at the end of the catch up.
Networking is a huge part of our business lives, and consequently takes up a good proportion of our working week. Try planning ahead carefully to break up the time you spend networking, then don’t be afraid to avoid too much caffeine and sugar in your day. You might just find you’re a much happier networker in the long run.
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