By Andy Lopata, Business Networking Strategist

During an entertaining week in the Netherlands a few years ago, I was taken along to a Dutch Football League match as a guest of a local company. Not speaking much Dutch it was a great opportunity to observe body language as people networked in the business lounge after the match.

I have to be honest, I enjoy 'people watching' anyway. I find it fascinating to watch people and determine their personality and what they do by the way they behave. When you are with a group of people who speak a language with which you are not familiar, this becomes the natural 'safety zone'.

There were certainly some interesting characters at the event. The first person we spoke to after the match had finished, turned away from his friends to approach our group and started to speak to two of my Dutch companions. From the few words I understood, I picked up that he had asked them if they worked for the bank who was sponsor of the business lounge. They didn't, but he now had them in conversation.

As they talked away, our new friend dominated most of the conversation, speaking with great enthusiasm and humour. One of my friends turned around to explain to me what he did, he was an artist. It was only at this point that he realised that I was English, and he turned to me to tell me about a client of his in Australia!

Within a short time, the artist's portfolio magically appeared and was passed around as everyone looked around them for an 'escape route'.

We managed to move away, to greet a group of people at the other end of the bar. One of the group is potentially a very important client for my host. We joined them and started speaking about the match. After a while, my friend was speaking with another member of the group. I could understand from their body language and a few of the words spoken that they were talking about business, rather than football, so I kept out of the conversation.

My friend told me later that the conversation could lead to business. They had met a few times before but my friend had never discussed business with him before. He knew from others what my friend's business was, and raised the topic with him when he needed his help.

My friend also told me that the original prospect had told him that he liked him because he didn't try to talk business at every opportunity, but was just a normal guy sharing football stories rather than chasing business. I am confident that my host will soon have a new key client rather than prospect.

So much can be learnt by observing other people; and the same approach to networking is important irrespective of borders:

- Don't take over another group's conversation for your own agenda

- Avoid trying to sell when it is not appropriate to do so

- Keep clear of interrupting two people who may be discussing a business opportunity

- Get to know people as individuals and find the interests you have in common to help you to connect

- Be patient

And don't worry; I didn't stay quiet in the corner all evening. I don't think that anyone who knows me would believe that!

To find out more about how to pick the right networks, implement a successful networking strategy or how to generate more referrals, please visit www.lopata.co.uk or contact us at harvey@lopata.co.uk / 01992 450488.