By Geraint Evans, Sales & Marketing Director, Avanta Serviced Office Group

What does networking actually mean?

We all think we do it, but is it possible we’ve forgotten the true meaning behind it?

According to the Business Dictionary, networking comprises of “creating a group of acquaintances and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question ‘How can I help?’ and not with ‘What can I get?’.”

Whether you are a business owner or an employee, a student or just starting your new venture, networking is a crucial part to any line of business. It can help grow your profile, make you more confident and encourage you to connect with people who may become colleagues or friends in the near future. The benefits are truly endless.

London is possibly one of the most international cities in the world with over 40% of global headquarters based within a reasonably small vicinity, not to mention the top talent and CEOs that stream the streets every single day. Can you really think of a better place for networking and where it might take you if done the right way? So, how about stripping back to basics and investing some real time and effort into networking?

Be Smart

To ensure you truly make the most of any kind of networking, whether online or at events, make sure you identify the types of people who you are trying to find. Otherwise your time – and we all know time equals money – will be wasted.

The ‘smart’ people will often be spotted at highly targeted industry events, or seen roaming LinkedIn where they are looking for new talent or prospective contacts. If you are just starting out, growing your network of like-minded entrepreneurs or professionals is a powerful advantage so do your homework before you go.

Go in Prepared

Although making the first move is always challenging, you can’t expect to be pursued at networking events. Have a strategy about how you are going to connect with others, it is as important as having a sales or a marketing strategy for your business. Have an interesting question up your sleeve to initiate conversation to make sure you get noticed, and remembered.

Be Interested

People like to talk about themselves, and if you listen into any conversation you’d be surprised as to how many times the word “I” gets used. That’s why networking can sometimes be like dating – you have to listen to be heard. At networking events this can be a useful strategy where, after making the initial contact you learn to understand who the person is, and how they communicate.

On social media and other online platforms, this has to be approached slightly differently. After making the initial contact, arrange a face-to-face meeting or a phone-call if distance is a variable. Making time for other people shows respect and also gives you the advantage in finding out how they operate.

Be Helpful

As mentioned earlier, networking was originally based on “How can I help?” This means that you can’t expect to go into networking for solely your own benefit. We rarely come across people who genuinely want to help without any ties or hidden agendas. But those that do will, more often than not, end up successfully reaping the benefits in the long run.

So shout about your talent, and really make sure they know how good you are - but taking the first step in offering to help will go a long way.

Follow Up

Finally, follow up. What a simple, yet effective method to be remembered.

Whether you swapped business cards or not, follow up by saying thank you. If nothing more comes out of it, at least you will be remembered as being polite.

There are numerous networking options out there so finding the one that best suits you and your business can be challenging. At Avanta Serviced Group, we offer our clients access to mingle., our free networking and events programme, allowing companies in our buildings to regularly meet, interact and do business with one another.