There is this view today that the world of business has changed entirely over the last few decades. We think of the old days as a line of meetings between sweaty overweight guys in cheap suits drinking whiskey, grabbing waitresses by their butts and making deals over 12 oz. steaks. We also think of today’s business world as a world where wispy girls and guys in mega-expensive designer clothes and retro glasses do their business exclusively online, or using those air-computer thingies from Minority Report.
In reality, none of these are true, especially the picture that we have of the modern world of business. Sure, there may be some workplaces and companies where everyone looks like they are in the Danish version of Kraftwerk and where being online is everything. However, there are far more places and businesses that run in a more old-fashioned way.
And wherever this is true, you need to network in person and you need to network like a pro. So, how do you do it?
You do your research
Before you even meet your potential customer, or client, or supplier or partner or whatever you are hoping they will become, it is a good idea to do some research. You should try and find out a bit about them. You can learn where they went to school, where they worked, how successful they have been and so on.
It would be even better if you could find out some personal stuff about them, like for instance what they like to eat and drink, what kind of places they like, etc. The good thing is that today, this is easier to do than ever before, what with Facebook, LinkedIn and all these social networks that seem to have been made for this purpose precisely.
You learn your stuff
Networking is not all about business. In fact, the best networking is rarely about business and has more to do with the personalities and the people that you are networking with. However, this does not mean that you should head into it all without any preparation whatsoever. Only when you know everything you need to know about your business and what you are doing, can you truly relax and start networking like a pro.
You stay relaxed
The ultimate goal of networking is to improve your position with the people you are doing business with but without giving them better deals, doing professional errands for them or anything like that. The goal of networking is to do it in a more personal way and a more long-lasting way. In order to be able to do this, you need to be relaxed and stay relaxed.
Networking should be breezy, it should be light and it should never feel too constricted. Of course, if you are networking with people from other cultures, you should be careful not to overdo it, but we will get to that later. In general, the more relaxed you are, the better you will be at networking. If you are not naturally relaxed and if you find yourself nervous in such occasions, you can always talk to someone about that.
You do not overdo the whole relaxed thing
We have talked about how important it is to stay relaxed when networking, but it can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes people go overboard with the whole relaxed thing and it can become embarrassing or even offensive for the other party. Think Michael from The Office. That’s what we are talking about.
It is even more important to have measure if you are talking and networking with someone from other countries, Asian countries most importantly. In Asia, even informal business meetings have their rules and you may be seen as disrespectful to your new friends. Some European cultures are also somewhat subdued in business meetings, no matter how informal they are.
You be yourself
Finally, you should always be yourself. No matter how good an actor/actress you are and no matter how much you prepare, if you try and be someone you are not, this will show and you will end up embarrassed. At best.