Like many business owners, I spend quite a bit of time on networking. Opportunities to meet other businesses and make new friends are plentiful in the Thames Valley and beyond, especially once you’ve made it onto the mailing list of a few networking groups – it snowballs from there.
‘Everyone hates networking’
Funnily enough a question which comes up regularly is ‘don’t you just hate having to do your spiel at these things?’. It’s artificial and contrived to go out to meet people, armed with your elevator pitch and cards, and then not do the things all the experts tell you you shouldn’t do, such as asking for people’s cards or – heaven forbid! – their custom.
Except doing business is the very reason networking exists and why we show up at 7.30am at a hotel on a roundabout out of town. The vast majority of us are at least also in business because there are bills to pay. Might it be easier and less time consuming to stand on a chair in the middle of the room and shout ‘come and get your [insert product or service] here, please form an orderly queue’?
I am pretty sure I ‘d give such networking a miss. Besides, I’d also be deprived of the pleasure of networking like 007, something I’d miss! Here are my Bond Strategies for your reading pleasure.
Bond strategy No. 1: Map the room
Being a card-carrying spy, the first thing Bond does when he walks into a room is map it. Not just the exits, the buffet and presumably where the gents’ room is (always useful), but specifically who’s there and what they’re doing.
When walking into a room full of people who are there to network just like you, there is no rush. Take a minute to walk around just to see who you might talk to and if they are ‘available’. Also if there is a speaker later, where would you prefer to sit? Are a few people at tables already, and if so do you see anyone you would like to connect with? Bag a chair and head back into the room, you’ll be guaranteed to sit at an interesting table later on.
Bond strategy No. 2: Aim
Bond never goes anywhere for no reason. Like businesses he’s usually chasing something or someone, or busy preventing a disaster in order to keep the world turning. He has an aim and a goal and an unwavering focus on achieving it. Bond is also a very busy man, so once he’s done mapping he goes straight for the target.
Set an aim or a goal for each networking event you attend, for example speaking to a particular organisation or individual, or introducing yourself to at least five new people. Give a friendly nod or brief hello to familiar faces – if there is time, speak with them after you’ve reached your goal for the event. Catching up after the event is another opportuity too.
Bond strategy No. 3: Improvise
Of course Bond would be boring if all his mapping and aiming worked all the time, therefore unexpected developments are to be expected. Bond’s improvisation is helped a great deal by Q’s clever gadgets that we were introduced to at the start of the movie and have forgotten about by the time he is in a pickle.
Improvising is about using whatever you have available in a situation, and this is of course helped in turn by preparation as Q knows all too well. Bring some props you might not think you’ll need and use them, for example with people who are not normally in your target audience. What is an overfamiliar example of your product to you could be the very thing that helps another visualise what you do.
Bond strategy No. 4: Follow your hunch
Bond’s spy-business is thoroughly unscientific when it comes to presenting evidence prior to taking action. Part of the fun is of course how he ignores the rule book and direct orders to follow his instincts, and always lives to tell the tale.
If you have a pitch you normally use when networking, try listening to your gut about how to use it. Adapt it according to the event or person you are connecting with, and see how a departure from your usual way of presenting your business lands.
Bond strategy No. 5: Flirt and snog
Surely this one needs no introduction… Now, I won’t be held responsible if any reader takes this literally the next time they’re out there! What I mean by this one is be interested, complimentary, and show your attractive side. Be genuine about your interest; people can sense if you’re just being polite.
Bond strategy No. 6: Come back
Inevitably, Bond suffers from knock-backs, mostly of the literal sort. That’s just as bad because he has a job to do, and he is not one for giving up. Neither should you. So you had a bit of a useless morning at an event: figure out what it was that made it so, make a plan about tackling similar situations in future, put it down to experience and book yourself onto the next one.
Six strategies… would you care to make that 007?