One of our team members, Lyanna Tsakiris shares her thoughts on networking.

Had an interesting REAL chat with another businesswoman yesterday.  How interesting you say… bear with me…

We were discussing ‘business stuff’ and the dreaded ‘N’ word came up.  You know the one –  ‘networking’.  Yes, it’s become somewhat of a dirty word in business.  The more people I speak to, the more I’m hearing the same thing; how networking is something that makes them want to rip their eyes out.  OK, maybe I’m being slightly dramatic and perhaps that’s a bit drastic – but for some, getting up at stupid o’clock or trudging along after a day’s work to play business card bingo with people who look equally as enamoured by the notion of (forgive me when I say this) ‘pressing the flesh’, is pretty soul destroying.

So, what is my point?  Well, going out and meeting people and making new friends (business contacts) shouldn’t conjure up feelings of dread.  For some it’s a lack of confidence, for others it’s their distaste of small talk or the fact that someone has told them to go and ‘work the room’ which has helped create these negative vibes.

Our world is changing, people are constantly changing and the way we do business is changing (yes I know you know this too).  However, what isn’t changing is that we need to build relationships in life.  It’s human nature and yes we need to do it to ‘do business’ too.  As much as social media and online communications have helped by increasing the channels you can use to communicate with people and allow you to find out more information about people before meeting them – face to face interactions still play a big part in building a ‘rapport’, trust and the opportunity to look someone in the eye and cut through the bu**sh*t.

And so I do feel like we all need to change the way we look at networking (myself included) and perhaps those who organise such events need to look at how they can help resuscitate it. It’s not about having the biggest ‘rolodex’ or LinkedIn address book. It’s about having deep relationships and giving more to people than you expect back.

As much as it’s evolved in the digital age I still think there’s a lot to be said about old school networking (or getting to know people).  Perhaps we can strip it back to basics, do away with the pressure of having to get something out of it and the transactional nature that it’s evolved into and start enjoying meeting people and the social interaction.  This may be a step to far … but maybe we could even fall back in love with it.

So when you are out and about and you meet someone new (networking or not),  REALLY get to know that person – most of us lead such busy lives that can we honestly say that we give people REAL time?  Back in the day with no email alerts, imessages, tweets, app updates (need I go on) people used to sit down and focus fully on the person and the conversation they were having.  My father certainly got to know the people he did business with, our families got to know eachother and a deeper connection was made.  I think this goes amiss nowadays and there always seems to be a distraction, particularly as we all have a mobile device with us most of the time.  Don’t get me wrong I think digital can help maintain and deepen relationships but let’s not forget the importance and art of face to face interaction.

I for one really enjoyed just sitting and having a coffee with my ‘new friend’ yesterday learning not only about what she did to pay the bills but also about her life experiences and family.  I got to see a whole person, understand her world more and it wasn’t a matter of just projecting the people we tend to project in a business environment.  It was a more meaningful experience and was genuinely something I believe we all need to do more of.