There’s an old saying that it’s not what you know but who you know. It’s true that connecting with the right people is a hugely beneficial way of building your experience, confidence and knowledge. The problem is, many people don’t find networking easy. I often get asked for guidance on it during my coaching sessions, especially at this time of the year when the conference season starts.


The trick to networking is doing it well: strong, effective networking isn’t something that can be left to chance or opportunity.  Instead, its needs focus and commitment to making it happen. Whilst the growth of social media means we are connected to more people than ever before, seeing the latest status update from someone you met once isn’t true networking and has limited value.


Networking is about human connection and ‘giving’ to others. My work and research with managers and leaders shows that networking is a key skill of being a ‘Pilot’, one of the five roles I identified as key for driving great performance. It is the ‘Pilot’ who excels at forming strong interpersonal connections with others to allow him/her insight into the best possible way to guide, support and manage them. 


Many leaders de-prioritise networking because it takes time and can feel scary.  So, here are my tips to be a more confident and effective networker. Share them with your managers and leaders, too.  


1.      Plan your networking – who do you want to meet at the event you are going to?  Ask for the list of attendees in advance and target the people that you feel will matter to you most. 

2.      To meet new people and fire up your network, think about the types of people you’d like to meet and ask friends/contacts/ex-colleagues to introduce you.

3.      Have your elevator pitch ready – what do you want people to remember about you?  Prepare your 30 second piece so that when you introduce yourself, you leave them with your core message.

4.      Before going to an event or networking opportunity, think about two questions that you can ask to start the conversation and make you feel comfortable, confident and in-control.  ‘What’s been your favourite part of the event so far?’ is always an easy one to get the conversation going.

5.      Always carry business cards – you’re more likely to connect via social media afterwards if you’ve exchanged business cards, and don’t forget in some cultures this is still a part of relationship building and respect. 

6.      Write on those business cards – write about the key facts, conversation points, whether that person has children, what’s important to them – don’t leave it to your memory. 

7.      Keep business cards in different pockets or compartments of a business card wallet – nothing more embarrassing then pulling out someone else’s business card rather than your own!

8.      Give and ask for 2 business cards – say ‘I’m giving you two cards so you can pass one on to someone else’ – take two from them and say you’ll do the same.

9.      Remember that everyone else in the room at an event feels anxious too – take control and put others at ease by asking them a question.  They’ll thank you for it!

10.  Be giving and be intentional about it.  Allocate an hour the next day (if you’re networking at an event) to think about what you can do/give to the people you have met.  What articles have you read recently that they might find interesting? What insight do you have that you could share?  What hints and tips do you have that they could benefit from?  What book have you read they may like?  Who do you know that you can connect them to?  The more you give – the more you’ll get back. 

11.  Keep the momentum – make a diary note to ensure you schedule another ‘coffee’ or ‘lunch’ in 6 months.  Don’t leave it to chance.  You probably enjoyed that chance to meet someone so make sure you get the opportunity again.

12.   Be at matchmaker – think about who you know that could value a connection with great people that you have in your network.  Don’t just connect them on Linked-In but offer to formally connect people.




For further insight about how to be a great ‘Pilot’, visit