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Networking in Festive Mode

How to Network at Christmas

Networking Interview

Here's the transcription of an interview with my friend and colleague Jane Adshead-Grant JAG and myself EM.  

For more tips and tricks, you can also tune in to our Confidence in You Pocket Podcast.

JAG: Eilidh we are today going to discuss a little bit about networking, particularly over the festive season.

So Eilidh, what's your experience of networking and what could you share with our listeners today?

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EM: Well, it's interesting that you ask me that, Jane, because I've just written a new course called The Essential Guide to Networking. It was commissioned by a company in Manchester and I'm having tremendous fun delivering it.

When I run the course I always say to people, networking is something you do naturally, it's something you do in your everyday life. You don't go out to network as far as I'm concerned. You just go out and have fun and enjoy life and on the way you meet interesting people.

JAG: Absolutely, and one of my experiences in talking to clients about networking, quite often a lot of my female clients dread it and they often think that networking is what the men do very well after work in the pub or at various golf activities and I'm conscious that now we've got, as we talked about the festive season coming up, there's lots of opportunities to network. What about for our female clients. What sort of things would you encourage them to do as we have more opportunities to network?

Festive Tips

EM:Well, I think you just live your life as you're going along and we have these glorious opportunities. We've got Christmas, the festive period ahead of us and so you're going to be meeting people that you either haven't met before and meeting family and friends that you haven't seen for a long time and it's your opportunity to first of all ask them.

I think that's the key message in networking, be interested in other people, go looking for the good in what's been happening in their life, explain to them what's been happening in yours but first of all finding out what's happening with them and just sharing information and this is the time to do it because you're going to be seeing people that you may not see for another 12 months so update them. It's a great opportunity.

JAG:And what about the nerves or lack of confidence in approaching someone to start the conversation? What tips would you give to help them with that first question?

The 5Ps of Preparation

EM:I think anything you do, whether you be going up on stage, as I often do, to speak, or if you're going out to network, it's all about preparation and planning. I talk about the 5 P's, preparation and planning promises a perfect performance. If you have thought about what you are going to say and you actually have a few statements in your head ready prepared when you meet people then it's so much easier to, some people like the term, some people don't, I quite like it, and that's to schmooze.

You go in and you chat to them and you make them feel good about what's going on in their life and you explain to them what's going on in yours. It's really just a very pleasant exchange talking about things like family, your occupation, your recreation and this is the time to talk about recreation. What are we going to be doing for some festive fun? What are we going to be doing in the New Year? Are you going to be going on holiday? What did Santa bring you for Christmas? It's a wonderful opportunity to just engage and have fun and be genuinely interested in the people you are talking to.

JAG:I love that, and it reminds me that this is absolutely an opportunity as you say, because we're all beginning to talk about Christmas and people are putting up the decorations and so we've got a topic already there to engage in.

Pay Attention

EM:Absolutely and that's what people want to talk about. I think that, at the end of the day, networking enables relationships and if you're going out and you're making people feel better about themselves, you've developed your relationship with them, then it's going to help you to be more successful, more positive, more connected and if you can give people some attention, make them feel noticed, notice something nice about what they're wearing or something their children are doing, or something their dog is doing, whatever it is, pay attention to them, notice something nice and then engage with what they're doing. They will like you for it and then will share information.

You and I do talk to people in the leadership role. You've talked about your female listeners but whether you be male or female and you're listening to this quick sound bite of networking magic, is that it's a leadership role. At the end of the day, leaders realize that the most important thing to do is to actually be involved in recognizing what's going on and that's what networking enables you to do.

JAG:And I would love to underscore the idea of giving somebody attention. In my experience it's very easy to get distracted when you engage with somebody in a conversation and to give them that 100% attention, even in that 30, 60 seconds, whilst they're responding to you is a real gift and I encourage people to focus on the attention and the listening that they have, rather than waiting to answer, rather than waiting to ask another question, but to really listening.

Listen to Learn

EM:You are absolutely bang on the button there, Jane, and even on this recording it comes to me that you are listening to what I say. I think you are a very engaging and active listener. It comes across in all the things that you do and people love that. People like to be listened to.

The challenge is, people are often so interested in themselves and it's absolutely nothing to do with you, it's all to do about the person that you're connecting with and so you have to listen to them first of all and not be thinking, “In 20 seconds it's my turn and I can talk soon.”

You really need to be engaging and asking them, we all know it, as coaches we know it, we're looking for open questions, the what, the who, the why, the how, the where, those words, those questions will actually make you appear to be a very, very good listener and people love to speak to people who listen.

JAG:And so, just to sum up our conversation today, what three key tips would you offer our listeners as they prepare to engage for their networking?

EM:Be open, be genuine, be you.

JAG:Fantastic. Well Eilidh, thank you so much for us connecting again. Really enjoyed it and I look forward to the next time.

EM:And great talking to you too, Jane. You really are one of the very best listeners I know.

JAG:Thank you.