Networking or a good conversation?

It was an interesting Twitterchat tonight under the #commschat hashtag which discussed networking. Like many, I don’t like the term networking as it reminds me of events where people are looking to find other people that they think will be able to help them. Usually, this means people ask a couple of questions decide that you are of no use to them and hurriedly rush away. At least that is my experience but then working for the police most people don’t want to stay and talk to you!

Since the arrival of social media the term ‘networking’ has taken on some new and definitely more positive meanings. But a couple of questions definitely need to be answered; why develop a network and most importantly what is the best way to behave with a network to get positive results?

The first question is easy to answer. Networks provide us with support, information and the opportunity to share with like-minded individuals. It is the old saying of strength in numbers. For example, recently I noticed an urgent appeal for food from Manchester Dogs Home. I wanted to help and if I had it would have meant a few extra tins of food. However, I raised the issue with my network and it has led to hopefully thousands of tins of dog food. This is the strength in a positive network.

If that is the case then I think there are five key things to remember to have more chance of a positive outcome from networking:

1. Be honest – don’t try to be something you are not just be yourself as if you aren’t it will quickly be found out.

2. Listen – probably the most important element of any good conversation and definitely an essential part of networking

3. Be open-minded – don’t go into your conversation or networking wanting a specific outcome as you are likely to move along that road with casualties littering your route. You can have an aim but avoid specifics.

4. Make it a good conversation – enjoy the human interaction and learning about new people and new things as well as sharing your similar interests.

5. Finally, make best use of technology – face-to-face is great when you can do it but use all the available online tools to help you network. I have made so many contacts through Twitter and LinkedIn but it is when we meet in person that the relationships can flourish.

So, stop thinking about it as networking and start thinking about it as learning about people and having good conversations.

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