We will be delighted to see you at our forthcoming Expo at St James’ Park, Newcastle on the 1st of November, but what does it take to make the most of the occasion and become a great networker? Patricia Bacon explains…

So many people shudder at the idea of going out to ‘network’ – thinking this is only about having to go to an event and meet people who they don’t know and attempt to have interesting conversations when actually they just want to just run for their lives. Well, it doesn’t need to be like this. It is so much more than this.

People often forget just how the networking in our lives can start early, when we don’t really even think of it as networking, when we are at school, University, in our work places, clubs and more. When we enjoy it and we are actually very good at it. The more we nurture and invest time developing our network the more both parties can benefit, often when both are least expecting it.

So let’s explore what you can do to enjoy it and become brilliant at it.

Remember to be yourself

Be your authentic self and remember that first impressions count and talk about who you are and not just what you do. How would you answer the question “Who are you?’ – give it a try. People buy from people they like, who are interesting and who they trust. It also means you have the opportunity to strike up an interesting and broader conversation. And this is just the beginning of what can develop, in many situations, to be incredibly strong relationships.

 Nurture the relationship and start early

Networks are very powerful if we look after and nurture them well. It is worth remembering how important it is to stay in touch with people over the months and years. You may well be surprised and delighted by what comes back and often when you are least expecting it.  School and University friends, for example, can develop in to great business contacts too.

Introduce yourself and keep it punchy

At a networking event when you are meeting someone for the first time tell them what you do powerfully and succinctly in a sentence – and leave your audience wanting to ask you more.  Practise this before if you need to. You may love what you do and all the detail of your business but remember the person you are meeting doesn’t know it all and doesn’t need or want to as soon as they meet you. But over time many will so less is more at the beginning.

Move around the room and talk to lots of people

It can be very comfortable to spend the whole time with someone you meet (you may well be nodding now – don’t worry, we’ve all done it!) who feels easy to talk to and you feel very safe with. Be confident knowing that everyone in the room will be feeling a little bit like you in approaching new people and striking up conversations for the first time. Networking is about moving around and meeting lots of different people. As you tell the person you are talking to that you are going to continue to mingle you will want to thank the person and exchange business cards and send them a follow up note and connect on LinkedIn and other relevant social channels. These are a great way for you both to keep in touch and see, for example, posts that you write and respond to and to develop the relationship.

Actively listen and hear what happens

When we ask questions it isn’t often people have (or are given) the time, space and silence to really answer questions without the other person often feeling the need to add something mid-sentence. Take time to pause and really listen to what you’ve just asked that person. Some of the best conversations happen when we do just that.

Be brave and be brilliant – ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’

One of my big mottos in life is ‘If you don’t ask you don’t get’ and I have gone out to my network for advice, business development opportunities, to introduce people and I have responded to many requests. And very often people in my network have come to me for advice and it’s helped the relationships deepen over time and become so much stronger.

Tickets for the Armed Forces & Veterans Resettlement Expo are free and available from: https://pathfinderinternational.co.uk/pathfinder-magazine-announce-first-ever-military-resettlement-veterans-expo/

Patricia Bacon is an expert business growth consultant and founder of Couplepreneurs a new global network for couples running businesses together. Find out more at www.couplepreneurs.co.uk