If you find networking a daunting prospect, you’re not alone. But it really becomes a problem when you’re not able to take advantage of some of the opportunities around you. For instance, Fujairah Creative City Free Zone offers you a progressive home for your business, inclusive of some of the UAE’s best networking events and opportunities. So, it would be a waste if you were not able to use everything it has to offer.
With that in mind, here are a few simple psychological tactics to develop your social agility:
1. Start small (and increase with confidence)
When consulting entrepreneurs looking to start up in the UAE, we invariably end up talking about the networking opportunities at Fujairah Creative City. However, exciting as it is to take an aggressive approach– forcing your networking is unlikely to bring results if you’re not confident in these situations.
So, give yourself a small and attainable networking goal for your next event, and increase the bar gradually. If you have just made three contacts– make it four next time. Over time, small improvements will accumulate and turn your business into a powerful networking machine. This compounding formula is revealed in Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect. He puts it this way: “Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference.”
2. Practice networking in-house
Networking professionals display a calm, confident, and natural energy. Practicing your opening questions beforehand is an excellent strategy for enhancing confidence and legitimately rewiring your brain to become a better networker. Practically, you’re likely to become less stuck for words when approaching someone. It’s also less likely you’ll shy away from key contacts.
You can create in-house role play scenarios and develop networking and communication skills across your company. How about challenging your employees (and yourself) to create a gamified two-minute elevator pitch with a prize for the best? Role playing changes dynamics into a more interactive and friendly environment- something very useful for developing your skill at breaking the ice.
3. Use the currency of generosity
Powerful networking equals business growth? Potentially, yes. But there is a paradox– most successful entrepreneurs recommend that you actually focus on giving others value rather than trying to actively take it.
Keith Ferrazzi, the CEO of US research and consultancy firm, Ferrazzi Greenlight, says that “the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity,” in his New York Times bestselling book, Never Eat Alone. With that in mind, focus on giving value to others, show interest in someone’s business, offer authentic insights and help, and then let rewards flow to you.
Giving value makes sense when it comes to building your network. If you import exotic rugs from China to Fujairah, and you’re seeking a relationship with a company that has luxury home furnishing shops all over Europe– then you’re likely to gain traction by giving your contact helpful advice.
Maybe you can share private research findings, or offer to send some samples. You’ll instantly build trust and boost the odds of doing business in the future. As Ferazzi notes: “It’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.”
4. Try social media before events
If you’re nervous about face-to-face networking, the internet offers you the chance to network remotely via LinkedIn and other channels. Social media has the power to help you interact with people before meeting them in person. This ice breaker method can be useful if you don’t like to feel isolated when attending a big networking event.
There are many entrepreneur networking groups in and around Dubai, offering the chance of online interaction. These include Meetup, Startup Grind Dubai, as well as Entrepreneurs Organization, a global entrepreneur community.
5. Embrace diversity when networking
There are big benefits to connecting with a diverse range of people in the business world. In Frans Johansson’s book The Medici Effect, he suggests that the best ideas stem from the impact of different industry views.
He highlights the case of Leonardo da Vinci: “The defining Renaissance man and perhaps the greatest intersectionalist of all times, believed that in order to fully understand something, one needed to view it from at least three different perspectives.”
In practical terms, this means you need to analyze your networking biases, seek out new types of people, and consider the potential of different ideas. Johansson suggests that getting out of your comfort zone can create “intersectional innovations,” which can transform your business with ideas that you would never have come up with without new perspectives. Where would Apple’s typography be without Steve Jobs taking a random calligraphy course?
6. Network with mindful authenticity
Mindfulness is a legitimate business tool that can positively affect organizational behavior, emotions, performance, and relationships. This makes practices such as pre-networking meditation potentially very useful.
It’s a way to be calmer when working a room, and more able to use the inspiration and ideas gleaned from an event when back in the office. A quieter mind will also keep you on track with things such as networking accountability and avoiding negative chatter.
Last but not least, being authentic is essential when networking– be honest, be real, and take the true DNA of your brand out into the world.