Why persistence is the key to successful networking

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Written by Guy Walsh

When I first started networking around 14 years ago, LinkedIn was largely unknown, we didn’t have access to hundreds of apps on our mobiles, and even viewing a basic website on a phone could be a chore.

I was young and naïve. I was working for a social enterprise and I thought that the social message behind our work was impressive enough that I’d walk away from networking (having left a business card or two) and people would still remember me.

A lot of the events I attended encouraged me to leave a stash of business cards with them. I thought that was great. My face was now firmly implanted within the network. No-one would forget me. How could they?

Wrong.

Fast forward to 2023. As well as running Countryside Connect, I’m a regular at a number of networking events. That’s a deliberate choice. I chose to create and maintain this list of networking events in Leicester and Leicestershire so that I can pop out whenever I find myself with a free day.

Having effectively restarted my business in a new part of the country as we came out of Covid, I’ve had to build a reputation from scratch.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou (contended)

When you meet someone for the first time, your in-built prejudices come into play. The way they walk reminds you of your friendly relative. Their voice reminds you of a teacher you didn’t get on with. Something they said was once said by that terrible boss you once had.

This is a perfectly natural reaction – and one that we must work hard to identify and overcome. A lot of the time these feelings are bubbling away in your subconscious – you won’t even be aware of them in your conscious mind. (NB: I teach more about this on my Acting Skills for Life workshops)

Those prejudices, whether you are aware of them or not, mean that your initial impression of someone can be skewed quite significantly, and it can take time to overcome them.

Of course, sometimes you immediately bond with someone – but this doesn’t happen every time.

Can you make people feel like this?

The more time you spend around people, and the more time you take to get to know them, the more you allow yourself to break down those prejudices.

Similarly, the person you met is going through their own experience in relation to their prejudices about you.

This may be why we’re sometimes reluctant to do business with people that we’ve only just met. We haven’t built up the know-like-trust factor that can only be achieved over time.

If you go to a networking event and run around the room handing business cards to everyone and only giving them a token level of attention, they’ll remember that you made them feel insignificant.

Would you do business with someone that made you feel insignificant?

By attending networking events regularly and connecting with the same faces on an ongoing basis, you can build a cheerleading squad for your business, but only if you make people feel valued.

This is easier if you’re a naturally empathetic person. If you have no interest in connecting authentically with people, it may be that networking is not the right route for your business.

And if you are an empathetic person that likes to connect, but you are also a little shy and nervous in a room full of people you don’t know – well, that’s why I created Countryside Connect.

If you’re in Leicestershire, come along and let me introduce you to some friendly faces. You’ll feel at home in no time.

If you’re new to networking, you may also want to read about how to make the most of networking events, and my other top reasons for attending in the first place.

These days we can follow up by connecting on LinkedIn, viewing digital business cards, and sharing information on social media, but nothing will ever replace the energy, authenticity, and connection of a face-to-face interaction.

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