How to Network Effectively: 4 important tips to improve your networking skills
Networking is one of the most foundational skills for any individual - regardless of whether you’re an established business leader, a new startup founder, or an undergraduate student looking to form professional relations for internships, knowing how to network will serve as a huge advantage, and can often open the door to a large number of opportunities.
However, knowing the appropriate steps to network effectively is often a difficult task. More often than not, individuals starting out will often have to navigate the path themselves, with little to no guidance, resulting in a multitude of mistakes, before finally finding the solution.
Fortunately, as an NES member, I had the privilege of attending a Networking Masterclass by Ryan Siah, the current startup co-founder and CEO for WRAEK and ex-Vice President of Partnerships for NES. It was an insightful session where he shared the various tips and tricks to network, ranging from structuring conversations to online housekeeping.
Overall, I have identified four tips from the session that are easy to begin practicing, regardless of experience. And so, here are my top four tips for networking!
1. Make Yourself Interesting
When faced with this task, most individuals (myself included) will often feel confused or anxious. How do I make myself interesting, when I’m an average undergraduate in university? As Ryan shares, the key is not to have an interesting life, it is to understand your audience. There is a very big difference in the subject matter when talking to the CEO of Grab versus the CEO of DBS. Most would agree that subjects such as e-commerce or F&B commissions are much more tailored for one party as compared to the other. When networking, one should aim to understand the interests of the other party in order to engage with them.
Similarly, suitable preparation should be done in terms of your own proposition. Not only do you need to understand the other party’s interest, you should also be able to lay out the reasons as to why you started networking with them in the first place. There is no point in engaging in conversation simply for the sake of it. When networking, always have a main aim in mind, or a prepared plan. This ensures that time is not wasted, and increases the chances of the other party remembering you, which can then open doors in the future.
2. Be Presentable
First impressions matter. This is a principle that, although seemingly simple, is often overlooked. When the word ‘networking’ comes to mind, many often stress about the initiation of conversation, or jump to skills like body language. However, physical first impressions such as the addition of a blazer or the formality of your clothes are just as important as the manner of speech.
When networking, always remember to dress appropriately. It doesn’t take that much effort to remember to shave, or apply light makeup, or properly iron a shirt. All of these minute details contribute to forming a holistic and defining first impression of you, and when it comes to forming relationships with others, it is always better to be presentable.
3. Be Knowledgeable
Just as important as physical appearance is comprehensive understanding. In networking events, there are often a multitude of topics that are being discussed, ranging from finance-related subjects like cryptocurrency to current affairs such as business scandals. To leave a good impression, one should have in-depth knowledge about these topics, especially when asked to contribute to the discussion.
If an individual enters into a networking session without having the appropriate knowledge, it leaves a bad impression, particularly when others ask about your thoughts on the subject. So before attempting to build your network, remember to read up on the latest topics. For finance, things like cryptocurrency, investments, and the various types of bankers would be a good start. And for the latest news, NFTs are a possibility, and if you can read famous books such as ‘The Intelligent Investor’ or ‘The Prince’. Doing this can really help you go a long way in providing more perspectives for your conversation.
4. How to Ask
When it comes down to networking, there is often an aim in mind. Whether that aim is to ask for sponsorships or to ask for their time, there is always an aim. But how does one do the ‘big ask’?
Before even posing the question, ensure that the conversation is going well. Make sure the other party has been fully engaged, that they show clear signs of interest, and that they are excited by your background and by the current prospects shown.
Once interest has been confirmed, if it’s a win-win for both parties, simply ensure the upsell goes according to plan. If not, it is often useful to refer to the long-term benefits of the partnership. But in both scenarios, remember to sound confident. A lack of confidence can end up breaking the deal, so always remember to ask confidently.
And those are the four tips! Choose one to work on, and begin your path to professional networking today!
We hope everyone enjoyed the masterclass and gained connections in the process!