In this series, Grow Gold, we have been taking an extensive look into relationships, from a professional perspective, and how they can be nurtured into something valuable.
In the third part of this series, I would want us to take a look at networking and how we can adequately prepare ourselves to be efficient and strategic in making the most of our interactions. The idea of networking is a daily practice rather than a theory that requires top notch communication skills, appropriate appearance and behavior in conveying some form of information to establish a long-term relationship. Networking is not only limited to the business or work space but can be extended to casual life interactions. Every chance we get as individuals to interact with another person or a group of individuals, we are given the opportunity to network; to present an idea of common interest and pursue it for the good of both parties. Just think of the words of Margaret Wheatley: “Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”
While there are a lot of incredible tools and resources that make it easier to network with people from all over the world, there is still nothing quite like meeting someone face-to-face. In fact, Dr. Richard D. Arvey, a psychologist and professor at the National University of Singapore, shared in his report for Hilton Hotels called “Why face-to-face business meetings matter” that 83% of all respondents believed that the developing of a personal relationship is one of the most important elements of doing business.
The relevance of networking can never be underestimated or undermined. Below are a few facts shared by Hubspot to communicate the importance of networking:
- 85% of jobs are filled through networking according to research conducted by Lou Adler.
- 41% of networkers want to network more frequently but do not have enough time.
- 68% of entry-level professionals value face-to-face networking more than online.
- Nearly 100% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
There are 4 levels of preparation you must undergo before you can network effectively:
I find that the common practice among individuals who attend business functions is to skip the preparation phase and simply show up at the meeting or the event. It is essential that you prepare yourself mentally and skillfully before making any appearance. Before you present any idea, you present yourself. Now, if your presentation as a person is not attractive, you will not earn the attention and time space to get your idea of purpose across. In networking, it starts with you and how prepared you are! For me, self-awareness is always key. If you know and understand your lowlights (weakness) and your highlights (strengths) you would be able to take these three steps: acknowledgement, acceptance and appreciation.
Self-awareness is a process that requires you to be in constant communication with yourself and to remain conscious of your environment especially pertaining to the feedback you receive from people you interact with. Everything about yourself can be used to your advantage depending on what you know about yourself and how you can apply that skill to make an impact. Being self-aware does not necessarily mean you make the conversation about you. I have found out over the years that people are more likely to interact with you comfortably when you take interest in them. So, when you make people feel good about themselves, they are more likely to feel good about you as well.
Before making an appearance in the professional space to network with other business people, take time to check what I call the ABC: appearance, behavior and communication. When it comes to your appearance, you should take into consideration the function you are attending and dress accordingly. Do not forget that people still judge a book by its cover so, what you wear always matters. A research article by Hubspot stated that 72% of people say that their impressions of people are influenced by their handshake and their appearance. Appearance is not only limited to the attire you wear. However, your clothes should be neat, free of stains and properly ironed. What does your breath smell like? Is your body odor pleasant? Your body odor also accounts for your good or bad appearance. In case you wear cologne, do not be dramatic about it. Always look for a simple subtle scent. Appearance extends to the mental framework you put on as well. Now, if you are having a bad day, it will show in your facial expression. The aim of appearing right is not to look handsome or beautiful. It is to put you in a position of credibility in the space that you are in.
When you appear, you must behave. Your behavior communicates a lot about you and so does your body language. Did you know that 93% of what we communicate is via body language? 7% words used; 38% tone of voice, volume, rate of speech, vocal pitch; 55% facial expressions, hand gestures, postures and other forms of body language according to research done by Dr. Albert Mahabrian?
During communication, it is important to convey an impression of competence and credibility by making regular eye contact, keeping your palms open and facing upwards and sitting up straight. Once you are in the right mindset, you can consciously and unconsciously adjust your outlook to convey the intended message. Your speech and your body language should always be in alignment to allay any form of doubt in the other party. Remember to speak clearly and audibly. If you are going to make a speech, practice, practice, practice. If it is a business meeting or a gathering that would require your input, read up on the topic and stay socially aware with what is trending in the news. It is also pertinent that in communicating, first seek to understand before you seek to be understood. One of the most important skills you should be keen on acquiring is the skill of listening. Why? Because listening validates the value of others and shows respect. Listen to understand, nod your head every now and then as a show of agreement or interest and ask questions.
Potential to Engage
Once people have bought your ‘container’, the content of your communication should draw them to you. Although the words used are 7% of what you communicate, they have the potential to undermine all the preparation you have done in your appearance and behavior and should not be taken lightly. Sounding unintelligent, getting visibly upset or frustrated by standoffish and harsh people for instance can all have a negative effect on your networking. In order to become a person who has potential to engage you need to have strong emotional intelligence so that you are not destabilized when someone who engages you is off-putting or carries himself in a manner that should frazzle you. You need to be strong in your character and with your emotions. You must have substance, knowledge of different fields and ideas, and the ability to engage with a diverse group of people on a wide spectrum of ideas and discussion points. This takes intentional preparation.
Preparation for Networking
This focuses on mental, emotional, physical and document preparation. You need to prepare yourself both for engagement within your industry and outside of it. Preparation for your own industry is an everyday affair. If you should be called to network with people in your industry with even 5 seconds notice you should be prepared. Who are your industry players? What are the conversations and issues of interest in your industry? What is the dress code for your industry? How can you develop your own signature so you remain authentic and still fit in your industry? All these are questions you need to have solutions to in your everyday engagement.
For other networking engagements that are pre-planned you need to know who will be attending, know the kind of conversations to have, build rapport, remember your handshakes and eye contact, take memory space through your conversation and body language and share your business cards.
Success is when preparation meets opportunity. If you make an effort to always be prepared you will definitely make the necessary impact in your engagements to build strong and productive networks.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Certified High Performance Coach, Global Speaker, Media Personality and award-winning Entrepreneur.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; the mother company that holds Dzigbordi Inc. & Allure Spa in The City. These brands provide services in Personal Impact & Development, Corporate Consulting, Wellness & Grooming.
Her coaching, seminars and training has helped many organizations and individuals to transform their image and impact, elevate their engagement and establish networks leading to improved and inspired teams, growth and productivity.
Her area of focus is Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power (H.E.L.P).