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The Caterer

Use the power of networking

04 January 2013
Use the power of networking

There may be plenty of chances to network in the industry, but how many people really know how to harness the opportunity, asks Bob Walton

All too often one goes to a purportedly high-end networking event for business leaders only to find sales personnel targeting everyone who walks through the door. Nothing could be more off-putting.

Even worse, how often do you see two or three individuals from one company attending a networking event and then sticking like glue to each other instead of spreading their wings, using their charm and embracing the moment to meet new people and understand new businesses?

I continually ask myself, what is the point of spending money and management time attending a networking event to simply meet or sit next to your own colleagues?

An equally common mistake is to fall into the "polite" trap. Listening to others will give you great insight and is often the first step towards building a close business relationship; but it is equally important to share your own story, or the experience will become one-sided and you'll get nothing from it.

If you are uncertain how to make the most of these opportunities, consider investing in a "how to network" course. Alternatively, choose events where you can be selective in your targeting, and always do your homework on the likely attendees in advance. In fact, it is far easier to get to know people in a social environment, so don't confine your networking efforts to traditional business events.

Networking is one of the oldest, yet most underestimated, techniques in our business world. Despite the meteoric rise of social media and immediate communication, people still buy from people, and working "offline" is the only way to truly connect. That holds true whether you are the prime minister or the local publican.

Professional introductions give operators the ability to open doors and become connected on a personal level, changing the whole dynamic of a business relationship.

The industry must wake up fully to the power of getting connected through selective professional events that deliver like-minded partnerships and act as a catalyst to doing business. Ultimately, it's about building a business community that is mutually beneficial to all who belong.

Bob Walton recently launched the Nth Degree Club, a business dining society that merges the best of private dining in London with a membership of aspirational professionals who want to stretch their horizons.

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