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Six secrets of networking

Jan 03, 2019

Networking is one of the most effective ways to grow your business. However, people often feel intimidated by an event where seemingly everybody knows one another and you have to interrupt conversations to get anywhere.

Here are six tips to make any networking event a huge success.

Don’t try to talk to everyone

Instead of giving business cards to every attendee, try to connect with just five people. If you have five 20-minute conversations, that gives you time to get your bearings, grab refreshments, and move from one conversation to the next. A meaningful, in-depth conversation will allow you to make a real connection that will be more memorable for both parties.

You may worry that you will miss a golden opportunity by not knowing which five people to talk to. Remember that trying to talk to everyone will not yield any meaningful connections. Furthermore, respect is paramount: if you aren’t engaged in the present moment, the other party will feel that you are only interested in how you can use them.

By connecting with a person, you are sowing the seeds of future business relationships. The perfect opportunity is not out there somewhere, waiting for you to find it: it’s waiting for you to build it.

Don’t just look for what’s in it for you

Think about what you can bring to the event. Can you share some insights of your own previous experiences? Do you know of an event that people might be interested in? Could you introduce two people that you know at the event? How will your presence make the networking event a success?

Business is very much about generosity: the more you give, the more you get back.

Help out

Guess who gets to meet most people at a networking event? Guess who always knows what to say to complete strangers? Guess whom everyone remembers? The organisers.

If you’re ever afraid of not knowing what to say, helping out and behaving as if you were a host will work wonders. After joining the Irish International Business Network (IIBN), I was invited to become a board member. Like other board members, I do everything I can to spread the word about the organisation and to make sure everything runs smoothly when we bring people together.


Make sure that you always follow-up. If you are really interested in building business connections, send a message of value – details of an event that might be of interest to them, a willingness to introduce them to somebody in your network, a suggestion of a media outlet that could help them. You will stand out.


I met a Maltese delegation in Dublin through the Dublin Chamber (of which I am an active member), which led to exporting my services to Malta; as a result, I took part in a trade mission to Manchester, which led to finding out about IIBN’s London chapter. One of their meetings happened to take place while I was in the UK, so I thought, why not go? The three are not mutually exclusive, but work in synergy.

Belonging to several networking or business groups allows you to bring the contacts that you meet into your broader network: cross-pollination increases the number of connections you can make for others.

Network depending on what stage your business is at

Look for opportunities based on your ideal client or business partner. For example, attending local networking meetings may not directly yield the results you want if you want to go international or do business with big companies.

Take what you already have and bring it to an event that represents what you’re missing. For example, you could join IIBN because of the Irish element: you are an Irish company doing business in Ireland. Take the Irish diaspora as a stepping stone to bring you closer to the rest of the world.

Time is precious, so make sure to choose your networking well, do what you can to make it as effective as possible and always leave time in the diary afterwards for your follow up.

Susan HayesCulleton is Managing Director of the Hayes Culleton Group and Global Irish BECKSearch.