Networking keeps your finger on the business pulse
It’s always a good idea to prepare for networking events. But it’s probably best to leave your research at home – particularly if it’s a book called Business Networking and Sex.
The book plays on a risqué double-entendre but is an examination of how gender impacts interactions at business events.
The female executive who arrived at one networking lunch with a copy under her arm was left quite flustered trying to explain this to curious attendees.
Still, at least, she had a novel conversation starter. This anecdote is among a collection of networking horror stories shared in a business blog – from having a tray of champagne spilled on your head, to biting into a canape and having it squirt all over the keynote speaker.
The toe-curling tales conjure an emotion many of us associate with business networking – anxiety.
The key to making it effective and enjoyable, says veteran networker Carmelo Arto, is to think of functions as learning opportunities rather than business ones.
As CEO of the Breast Cancer Research Centre WA, networking with business leaders and high net-worth individuals is an essential part of Arto’s job.
But his lifelong interest in others means it’s a pleasure not a chore.
“Prior to this whole corporate thing, one of the things I couldn’t get enough of was travelling,” Arto says.
“Just meeting people in different cultures and talking to them. I have a genuine interest in people – what they’re about, what makes them happy and what drives them.
“So, for me, it’s not a stretch to network – it’s a stretch to ask for money – and I never do. I just create awareness of what we’re doing.”
Arto realised at university that networking offered incredible opportunities to learn from more experienced hands – it was about sharing stories, ideas, tips and advice.
“A lot of these corporate heavyweights have been there and done that and they’re happy to tell you about what they’ve done.”
Arto found it particularly useful as he tackled an MBA after many years working as a medical scientist.
Conscious the transition to the world of finance would be a leap, he exploited every opportunity to meet and learn from business leaders.
He was president of the UWA MBA Students’ Association, and went on to become president of the alumni group, crediting contacts made through these groups with launching his career.
His advice to others is:
- Be genuine: “If you’re not genuinely interested in who you’re talking to, you won’t get any traction.”
- Do your homework: Try to find out who will be attending each event, decide who you would like to make contact with and research them beforehand.
- Remember personal details: If anyone you are talking to drops personal details – a planned holiday, or their children’s names – make a discreet note so you can ask them about it next time you meet. Remembering personal details is a mark of respect.