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The Orwell Bridge in Ipswich may not be an obvious topic to break the ice but it seemed to make my conversation flow when I attended a networking evening at Nabarro earlier this week.
The event was put on for Nabarro’s summer vacation students but was made rather more interesting and indeed fun as guests from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Richard Ellis were invited to join us and act as guinea pigs - after all, there wasn’t any point in practising our new found knowledge of networking on people we already knew.
So what top tips did I pick up from the evening? The main thing (although strictly speaking it’s not a tip) is that networking is a skill that with a little help and practise anyone can develop - even the shrinking violet. And to help you get started here are some pointers:
Wear your name badge on the right - most people look in this direction when they shake hands.
Shake someone’s hand firmly but don’t attempt to break their knuckles.
Follow James Bond’s lead and repeat your first name twice when introducing yourself - e.g. Hello, I’m Husnara, Husnara Begum and if possible repeat their name back - Corinne it’s lovely to meet you. And if you can’t remember someone’s name just ask them again - in this situation honesty is the best policy.
Mirror body language and use plenty of eye contact as it shows you’re paying attention. Don’t stand with your legs crossed as it may be seen as a sign of weakness and worse still if someone bumps into you from behind you’ll fall head over heels (not in love).
Keep hands away from your body - crossed arms are a big no, no but it’s generally acceptable to put one hand in your trouser pocket.
Useful icebreakers (other than the Orwell Bridge) could be public transport or the weather (both are the nation’s favourite subjects).
The whole point about networking is to build and develop relationships and NOT about selling. An effective networker is positive, friendly, reliable, a good listener, and has a giving spirit - they don’t think about what’s in it for them but what’s in it for you. So when you walk into a party shine the torch on everyone else in the room not on yourself.
PS - if you want more top tips on networking then check out “Working the room” an article prepared for us by networking guru Will Kintish.