The Surprising Benefits of Networking with Felicity Dwyer

When it comes to networking, which one are you?

1️. So nervous that you can’t bare the thought of a 60 second pitch (as if time slows down and it feels like half an hour)

2️. Reaping the rewards of heading to a networking group and growing your business through relationships

I recently spoke with my friend, Felicity Dwyer on The Social Brain Podcast about the 4 surprising benefits (that nobody talks about) when it comes to networking in your business. 

Prefer to listen to the audio version of our conversation? Go here

I'm a big networking ambassador. Alongside social media networking, I believe face-to-face networking events are really beneficial when it comes to building a connection with people who could either become a client or who could recommend you to someone looking for your services. 

But not everyone feels the same way.

For some people, the thought of going to a face-to-face networking event can fill them with dread.

If that’s you, then read on to discover the surprising benefits of networking that may just help you push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Don’t expect to attend a networking event once

It’s no secret that building relationships with people can help to grow your business. The more people you speak to about what you do, the more brand awareness you create.

Felicity explains: “It's good to have quite a wide network because it's through people that you maybe don't know that well, that you hear about opportunities. Also, it's good to have a close network of people that you can really rely on that trust you and feel happy to recommend you. So you want to build those close relationships.”

To build close relationships, there needs to be an element of consistency. You can’t expect to turn up to a networking group, meet someone you get along with and suddenly you're off into the sunset with a new client or referral. 

Finding a regular networking group to attend may mean you meet less new faces but it’ll allow you to form stronger bonds with people. The closer you become with someone, the more trust you’ll build with them and the more likely they are to recommend you.

But it’s not just about what you can get. Remember, you’re there to connect with others. That means learning about the other person too, so you can perhaps pass on their details to people who may be looking for exactly what they’re offering in the future. 

Surprising benefit number 1: You’ll increase your confidence

Networking is a fantastic confidence builder. Meeting different people, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and talking about what you do are all things that can make you feel uncomfortable. But the more you do them, the more confidence you’ll build in yourself. 

Networking is also a great way to boost your communication skills. 

Felicity shares: “I love networking now, but it's not true to say I always loved it.I first went networking when I was still employed, and I remember being really, really terrified. I got through it by setting myself small goals. I was going to have three conversations and then I could go home.”

If you're worried about networking, try setting yourself some goals, to make it feel a little easier. And know that the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more confident you’ll feel in yourself. 

That confidence will then ripple out into other areas of your life.

Surprising benefit number 2: You’ll learn more

You can learn an abundance of information online but nothing beats having conversations with other humans who’ve been in your position. 

Felicity explains: “I would call myself a learning junkie. I've been learning development in different ways for over 20 years in my career. And I have learned so much through networking. I’ve learned about running a small business, social media and other types of marketing. I’ve learned from financial experts.

You meet people with a wide range of different skills and experience and most networking groups will have a speaking slot at some point. So not only do you learn from listening to them, but you'll get the opportunity to speak for yourself.”

Whilst giving a talk may fill some with anxiety, it’s actually another great way to build your confidence and showcase your expertise on your topic. Which leads us onto…

Surprising benefit number 3: You get to position yourself as a market leader

Felicity shares: “One of the things we know when it comes to learning and development is that one of the best ways to deepen your knowledge of something is to teach it. So actually having the opportunity to share your expertise with others, it benefits them, it benefits you, and that two-way exchange is really what it's all about.”

Having this element of learning and teaching others that you are a market leader is so powerful for you and your business. There's a generosity in sharing and we live in an information rich society now. 

It's very easy to Google the answer to something but the richness of hearing from somebody answer questions is something that Google can't replicate. When you’re presenting about your topic, you bring it to life in a way that’ll stick in people’s minds which makes it the perfect opportunity for you to position yourself as an expert in the field. 

Surprising benefit number 4: You’ll make more friends

Let’s be realistic: not everyone you meet at a networking event will end up becoming your friend. But both myself and Felicity have made some really close friends through attending networking events regularly. 

And they’re the people you can learn to lean on or reach out to for support when things aren’t going to plan. These friendships become invaluable. 

Even if you take away the close personal friendships that you may make, the idea of being in a group where people are supporting and encouraging each other can have a hugely positive impact on your mental wellbeing. 

Felicity says: “The group I run, as well as a learning expert, we often have a hot seat session where someone can bring a business challenge and get help from other people. It’s about getting that input and getting that encouragement when you do well. A good networking group won't be about competition in the room. It will be about collaborating with each other.”

With many of us working from home nowadays or running our businesses as a team of one, it can feel quite lonely. But attending networking groups is a great way to get you out of the house. Yes you could be growing your business by building your relationships but you’ll also be improving your mental health by having positive conversations and human interactions. 

Try out different types of networking groups to find one you like

The three most common types of networking groups are referral groups, expert-led groups and general networking groups. 

Referral groups are ones like BNI, which I’m a part of. The focus is on generating referrals for other members and maximising on sales. There’s typically a requirement that you bring in a certain number of referrals for other people throughout the month. You can therefore expect to receive referrals from other members too.

Expert-led groups are typically run by a ‘leader’. It’s their group and they are unlikely to want people who could potentially compete with them. Whilst there’s opportunity for you to network with others, this type of group is often more focused on the leader showcasing their expertise - perhaps delivering workshops or hot seat coaching. 

More general networking groups typically have less structure and are more relaxed. You may introduce yourself to the group and then spend some time chatting with the other attendees. A lack of structure can be quite daunting for some people whilst others thrive on the fact there’s minimal pressure to stand up and present.

If you’re new to networking, try a variety of networking styles, events and groups until you find one that you enjoy. 

The best skill you can have to *really* connect with people

If you want to get the most out of networking, here’s Felicity’s advice: “Go in there with the intention to listen and learn about other people's businesses, not just promote what you do because it's through that listening and interest that we really learn about other people and build those connections.”

If you were having a conversation with someone and they were busy looking around the room for someone more interesting to speak to, would you recommend them to a friend? No, you wouldn’t. 

Keep that in mind when you’re connecting with others. 

Felicity Dwyer is a Connection Expert and Author of Crafting Connection: Transform how you communicate with yourself and others. With twenty years of experience as a Freelance Training


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