The ancient art of networking: Why human connections matter the most

Draven McConville explains why it is important to meet with online connections in the offline world.

People seem quick to discount networking. Some people feel uncomfortable or feel that they don’t have the time to embrace it in their busy lives. Networking comes in all forms, not just the traditional dull ‘networking events’, with a room full of suits with nametags. There are online, seminars, breakfast meetings, round table dinners, conferences and generally meeting people in a social circumstance. Whatever the form of networking, it is still a crucial aspect of building a successful business and importantly, great for self-development as it presents the opportunity to connect, collaborate and explore opportunities with other like-minded individuals.

It might seem clichéd, but the fact remains, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ or as I like to say ‘who you engage with’. In today’s mobile and online social world, arguably too much emphasis is placed on online connections. While their value cannot be discounted, online connections are not as deep-rooted and real. It’s a fact that real human connections begin in a face-to-face scenario. Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, laughter and smiles are elements that help us to connect and relate with others. Who’s received an email and misinterpreted the tone and meaning? Probably most of us.

The internet has done a fantastic job at opening up endless possibilities of connecting with others and making the world a smaller place. However we should try and meet with our online connections in the offline world, bringing the real human aspect into it. Thankfully, there are a plethora of events, places and opportunities to meet with others in order to do so.

Networking isn’t just about business

My first rule of thumb, and perhaps the one most people forget, is that when it comes to networking there shouldn’t be a distinction between business and actually connecting with people. Business only forms one aspect of people, most individuals are diverse with many interests and it is not their job or career that defines them. While the term ‘networking’ is often associated with business, I personally don’t look at it as networking but more so the ‘meeting of minds’; just like striking up any friendship or relationship, it should be enjoyable and rewarding.

When you think about it, it seems obvious. People do business with people, it’s about relationships and the human connection first, then comes the business. There are so many people out there you’ve probably met throughout your life, perhaps by chance such as on the train, in a queue or at the pub. Each of these human connections plays a role, big or small, and bring a number of positive aspects to your career, thoughts, ideas, opportunities and in general your life.

I approach networking with an open mind and with excitement to meet others. For example, I attended a book launch in Somerset House, which I’d had no plans to attend, a total last-minute decision at the end of a very long day. After meeting a gentleman at the event and having a conversation about everything and anything, we stayed in touch and met every so often with no real agenda over coffee. Long story short, this gentleman helped to begin my journey in raising investment for my most recent venture, Klipboard, as well as introducing me to many other great people. We became friends first and business followed later. A completely unexpected, chance meeting and another positive aspect to my life brought through human connection.

The right attitude and behaviour is everything

On the whole, having empathy and engaging in a friendly, positive attitude goes a long way. Attend events, seminars and workshops, but go along with an inquisitive, curious attitude, not with a hidden agenda. Instead be open and prepared to listen to others, only then will opportunities be presented to connect with like-minded people. Seasoned networkers often ‘sniff out’ people who have just turned up to help themselves, versus those that have a genuine interest in others and in being there. Don’t have an ulterior motive, build relationships and a reputation for being ‘real’ rather than self-serving.

Be open-minded

As already mentioned, open-mindedness is vital. Always try and say yes, rather than no when an invitation or the opportunity to meet someone presents itself, you just never know where it might lead. Sometimes, it pays off to attend events or meetings that you might not deem hugely relevant, or you just don’t feel like going. I once had six intense client meetings in one day, the last thing I wanted to do was go to an event I didn’t know much about that particular evening. It was there that I got talking to the finance director of one of the largest private equity funds. Not that I knew this is what he did at first, as we actually connected over the admiration of the architecture of the building we were standing in. As it turned out, a passion we both had in common led to a varied, great conversation and the beginnings of what is now a long-term business connection of mine.

It’s important to remember not to simply disregard messages and emails from people you don’t know very well. Usually, someone is trying to make contact for the right reasons. It’s often the case that some of my useful and long-term connections started with a chain of emails, LinkedIn messages or introductions by others that later led to a face-to-face meeting.

Follow up

I can’t emphasise this enough. Successful networking and building relationships is reliant on actively staying in touch and meeting in person every so often. Dedicate some time every month to drop a note to people you have connected with and especially the people that have helped you on your journey over the years. There’s nothing wrong with being ‘Mr Nice Guy’, you should take the time to thank the people that have helped shape your career, or inspired you to do something. You’ll not only make them happy, but you’ll feel positive too. As my father use to say, ‘manners cost nothing’. Also remember to share your network with others and introduce people to one another, it’s my way of what I call ‘paying it forward’.

Be patient

Last but by no means least, networking is not an overnight thing; patience is key, it is not a smash and grab. Be consistent with your connections, keep attending events, continue to meet people, and maintain that positive attitude all while being your real self.

In summary, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that cracking the art of networking and understanding human connection can change your life and often your business. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, be human, make long term, sustained, genuine connections with people that interest you and it will be the most important and rewarding thing you ever do.

Draven McConville is CEO of Klipboard

Further reading on networking



Draven McConville

Draven McConville is the founder and CEO of Klipboard - Field Service Simplified.

Related Topics

Small Business Networking

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