Whether you fell into recruitment by accident or placing candidates was your career of choice, recruiters tend to be people, people. Spending time with others, understanding company cultures and consulting on staffing requirements is second nature. However, just because solving people puzzles makes you tick it doesn’t mean networking with a room full of strangers comes easily. So we asked former recruiter and now social media and networking expert, Julia Doherty of Green Umbrella, to share her top business networking tips. I will never forget that feeling of my very first networking event. I had only just launched my business and I knew I had to get out there and start networking but the thought of meeting strangers was a bit daunting for a young 26 year old recruiter. At the event, we sat down, grabbed breakfast and then the chair introduced himself. So far, so good. Then they started the 60 second pitch. As everyone stood up in turn I realised that it was heading my way; it dawned on me that I would have to say something as well. As my turn came nearer my heart was racing; I had no idea what I was going to say! Needless to say I survived and have stayed with that group for over 7 years. In time I became an accomplished speaker too. Now, over 15 years later, I still have some very good business acquaintances from those early morning breakfast meetings. I learned lots of lessons through my years of networking, so here are my top ten tips for an effective networking strategy (Lots of these rules apply to networking online as well as offline.) #1 – Always Be Prepared Always have your networking tools with you. So what tools should you have in your tool box? An ample supply of business cards, your leaflets and brochures, your name badge (I keep spare ones in my car), and prepared folder for your pitch. I found that having relevant props always worked well too. #2 – Arrive Early Whether you like it or not, people will form an opinion of you. Being early for any type of networking event on a regular basis will instill confidence in those around you. You are someone who is punctual, reliable and always there to help out when needed. #3 – Have a plan Have you heard of the phrase “work the room”? If you have an attendance list then highlight the people that you would like to meet and put this on your mental agenda. Turning up to a networking event and then just talking to people you already know may feel comfortable, but it does not really achieve the objective of networking. #4 – Use Your Ears Listen with intent. We have us two ears and one mouth and I was always advised to use them in proportion.When someone is speaking with you, give that person your entire focus. LISTEN. You will become a much better networker if you appear interested rather than interesting. #5 – Be Genuine and Transparent Be genuine in your interactions with others at any event or networking. You can spot a fake or a hard seller. It comes back to building trust. As mentioned previously, there is a big difference in being interested and in trying to be interesting. When you are interested in learning about someone and their business entirely for the sake of learning, you will leave a lasting impression as someone who genuinely cares. On the other hand, when you are interested only so you can take what you learn and then use it to make yourself or your products more appealing, then you have slipped into the dark side! #6 – Give and you shall receive When you become focused on “giving” and being helpful to others, then the “getting” will come later, and it will come in unexpected ways. Foremost is to remember that no-one likes a person with a ‘hunter’ or ‘taker’ mentality. I have used this theory for many years, and even now I am often criticised for giving free consultations, or free webinar workshops without expecting anything in return, but generosity is paid back tenfold. (check out this article called “Are you generous with your knowledge”). #7 – Leave your troubles behind No matter how you are feeling, put on your happy face at the door and remind yourself that it is “show time”. This is your time to light up the floor. People will look forward to seeing you and meeting you if you are energetic, positive, outgoing and motivating – it is contagious. Avoid burdening people with your troubles, a “woe is me” perspective can be a real turn off. #8 – Education, Don’t Sell The immediate sale of a product or service is not the goal in networking. I know it’s a cliché, but the idea is to sell THROUGH the room, not TO the room. Educate your fellow networkers about the benefits and features of your business through story telling and testimonials; let this social proof do the selling for you. It works, you just have to trust the theory and resist the sales pitch at all costs! #9 – Follow Up The biggest networking sin that you can commit is to not follow up after you have received a referral. Even basic follow up is critical. Make sure that you have connected with the individuals on all social networking platforms and sent a nice email saying that you are looking forward to meeting them at the next event. #10 – Follow up some more! Depending on where you look, marketing statistics state that it takes 7 to 12 impressions for a someone to make a busying decision. I personally use the Linkedin reminders feature so that a note pops up every 3 months to say “keep in touch”. I simply send a quick message to say hi. Some people drop off the networking scene quite quickly, but it is still important to keep the fire burning with the connections that you have built. Also consider drip feeding your networking colleagues with regular blogs articles (remembering to add an unsubscribe button!) About the Author: Julia Doherty of Green Umbrella, Online Marketing Agency. I am a total social media and digital marketing junkie. My focus is on making a difference to SME’s and independent recruitment agencies. Giving them those all important light bulb moments that will really enhance their business. I am a total Apple geek. In my spare time I am a camping and geocaching nerd! As mentioned at the beginning of the above article, a lot of these tips are recommended to use online with on your social networking platforms. I have written a book called “The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media” which are the top 7 mistakes that people make when networking online. You can download this FREE book by clicking here:http://www.green-umbrella.biz/download-your-free-social-media-ebook/ ***** ISV.Online is the leading supplier of skills testing software and services to the UK Recruitment Industry. Used by 9 of the top 10 UK agencies, by number of offices, and 7 of the top 10, by revenue, ISV.Online offers candidate skills assessment and evaluation software and online training tools, allowing agencies and in-house HR/recruitment teams to validate the skills of potential candidates and existing employees across a wide range of areas.