How to succeed at the Networking Game

Networking in-person conversations, much like the networks themselves, are not self-sustaining, they require real commitment and drive in order to connect and establish the foundations of a relationship.

Once you initiate and make eye contact you need some tricks to establish trust, build rapport and make great first impressions.



Adapt Your Approach

Networking can feel uncomfortable – like a fish out of water – because we are exposed to people and situations that we are not used to. It can be uncomfortable, but that discomfort serves as a reminder of our need to adapt our approach for the different types of people we are looking to attract. How are they interacting? Is their style of communication indirect or direct, expressive or more reserved. Most importantly, watching and listening helps us to understand them better and communicate with them in the way that they like.

 Active Listening

Put simply, active listening is where you speak less and allow others to speak more. By taking this approach to your networking conversations, you can develop a more profound understanding what others are saying and most importantly, develop a stronger rapport with them.

When listening actively, it is important that we not only use words but also appropriate facial expressions, eye contact and changes in posture because we need to signal that we are listening and relating to what is being said. Successful active listeners also use questioning to prompt their counterparts to look for new ideas and approaches, helping them to focus on solutions rather than problems.

Here are some examples of phrases you can use to dive deeper: “Why is this issue important to you?”, “Just to clarify, you’re saying…?”, “What makes you say that?”


Finding the opportunity to move to the topics you want to talk about when networking is a challenging but vital skill. Particularly in formal, professional circles time is precious, so having planned topics or moves to break the ice is a must. Once the chit chat has run its course and others have had their chance, we need to look for opportunities to steer the conversation towards areas that are important to us.

Segueing enables us to do that even in situations where others have harnessed the discussion, for example “What’s most important here is that…” or “The key issue is…” helps us to navigate conversation towards our priorities.


It is all too easy to walk up to someone at a networking event, only to have nothing in mind to say, which starts the conversation off on the wrong foot.

Adapting your communication to match the preferences of others, listening actively to what they have to say and seizing your chance to move conversation in your direction can help you perform and succeed at the networking game.

How to build spectacular relationships

When a Director once gave a talk on the importance of developing relationships, I was left thinking I had to buy someone a gift. Maybe it isn’t too far from the truth. When developing skills that can influence a relationship, having a giving attitude is what can help make them spectacular. Find out here how to build spectacular relationships.

How to build spectacular relationships


The most powerful initiator in building a great relationship is recognition. I am not talking about a front-page editorial in the weekly rag. This is all about being present for the other person at every interaction. Listen thoughtfully, reflect ideas and interests that are important to them.

Be sincere and serious about the issues that affect them. Offer support without the need for solutions. After all, isn’t this the very technique you use when you want to impress someone?

How often I hear others say that the first time they met a life-long partner – there was a connection. He/she just seemed to understand me.

Giving others sincere recognition is the first stage in healing, just ask a psychologist.


I am amazed at how many professionals fail  to see the effect they can have on others. The joy of a young child playing with a parent. The impact a senior director can have just spending a few minutes with a junior executive. How a famous actor can visit a children’s hospital ward and replace pain with joy. You have the choice to either light someone up or crush them.

The Critic

The third rail – touch it and fry. While giving others recognition is the gift to building a strong relationship, negative criticism is by far and away the slow toxic death. As a professional I grant you that critical analysis is an important component to business. Personal criticism, however, simply has no place, anywhere.

Yet in the modern world it seems that our natural, default position is to criticise. And wow, aren’t we just great at doing this? I can guarantee that if you put an idea forward, there will be at least 8 out of 10 people who will tell you why it can’t work.

So why do people fall into this trap? It’s all about power. I criticise you because it makes me feel powerful!
The last word

The extent to which we inspire one another, though we may be oblivious to it, is incredible. We listen and take a genuine interest. We practise understanding. Why? Because others excel with it, they want to work harder, be more productive, be as great as they can. This world continually proves that to claim power over another does not work. It is the wrong path, a dead-end, and has nowhere to go.

Remember, every time you criticise you leave a ‘bruise’. How long will that bruise take to reveal itself? It can leap out at you from hiding, when you least expect it. Deny people recognition, ignore them, substitute tolerance with dominance and watch the damage happen.

The gift is not buried in clever conversation and it is not how much you are willing to spend. It is free, it is generous, and most importantly, it is all about them. I hear so many people say they wish things were different. Be the change you want to see in the world. Start with yourself today.