In my view a lot of the talk around ‘the art of networking’ is a lot of phoey –dreamed up by expensive consultants.  

Networking is about making the most of yourself and your business wherever you are and whoever you meet.  It’s not a black art or a learned magic – it’s about doing your home-work, making an effort, consistency of approach, authenticity, respect and (in common with most business development tools) has to map onto your direction of travel.  

Yes of course you can become more skilled at entering and exiting conversations, finding the people you want to meet and then coming up with excuses to move on, but the most important thing is to know why you’re there in the first place (if you’re talking about ‘old school’ networking) and/or controlling your message and impact if you’re online.    

People do business with people so the most important thing to me is that I am who I say am, imperfect – yes, but me. 

When I’m meeting new people (and my company has just launched FIRST where I’m meeting loads of energetic and enterprising twenty somethings) I feel just as awkward as they probably do: am I interesting, have I got something to offer, can I leverage my network for their advantage?  The only answer is to take a deep breath, break the ice and try? 

And I have a great advantage if I make the first move – the other person will be grateful, because they’re in the same place thinking the same thing and it’s difficult.  It’s not just about extending your network though.  Always meeting new people is exhausting and can cease to be productive. 

Business relationships are like all relationships – they need nurturing, don’t forget your old allies in favour of creating a series of new ones and if you’re continuing to make new connections make sure that your approach is congruent with how you’ve acted in the past!  People like consistency and authenticity, they trust it because it’s real. 

Bridge Club logo

I can connect this reality to by business life – eleven years on I have  relatively ‘old’ business brand – people know what they’re getting with Bridge Club and ‘in conversation…’ and seem to like it and that’s important: it’s much easier to keep regular customers happy rather than always attracting new ones!!

We all like to be remembered and made a fuss of – take that personal knowledge into your business space.  It’ll reap rewards.  The people who really impress me seem to do this effortlessly, they make new contacts and follow them up, are in demand and look after their old connections with as much sincerity as the energy they focus on new markets, companies and individuals.  I’m too much of an enthusiast to complete this virtuous circle in my professional practice, but I’m trying and so can you. 

Enjoy being you and making your business sing!

Caroline Theobald, Managing Director Bridge Club Ltd

 For more information on Bridge Club Ltd. visit their website