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.