Networking can be a daunting prospect, even for the most experienced and confident people. But, it’s worth getting to grips with and there are a few simple tips to remember that can iron out the process

So, as a part of the SHIFT Speaker Database, we’re publishing a series of resources to offer some guidance to aptly grow your connections, as well as specific advice on public speaking. If you have your first public speaking event coming up, or are just in need of a refresh, make sure to have a read of our advice here. 

Since in-person networking was put on a considerably long pause last year, those all-important networking skills may need coaxing out of hibernation. We’ve also had to navigate the world of digital networking in order to make new connections, which can feel like another ball game in itself.

To help you get started with networking, we’ve compiled a few pieces of advice.

Have a game plan

Knowing what you would like to come away with can help guide your conversations, and even provide you with a natural opener.

It can also help others make meaningful introductions for you – if you’re looking for a UX Designer to collaborate with, someone in the room may be able to point you in the right direction. It’ll give you purpose and focus to ease yourself in.

Your aim doesn’t have to be specific though. Before you attend an event, you could simply take some time to think about who you will benefit from building connections with.

You can also make sure to get prepared. If you are after something specific, having business cards ready, and perhaps even samples of your product if relevant, can leave a lasting impression whilst making it easier for people to follow up with you.

If you’re feeling any nerves, ensure to practice introducing yourself. How can you summarise yourself, your business, or what you offer?

Make sure to listen

It may sound obvious, but being a good listener will make you even better at networking.

Going in with an open mind is super important. Whilst it’s useful to prepare your own shpiel, taking a reactive approach and letting others speak first can be more beneficial than you’d expect.

This can also take the pressure off. Going with the intention to learn about others & gathering advice can be just as useful as speaking about yourself.

Arm yourself with a list of questions you can turn to in order to get any conversations going. These can be informed by what you’re looking for whilst encouraging people to share their own stories.

Show up

As with anything, consistency is key.

Making yourself known within any given community will make networking significantly easier. You’re likely to see the same people show up at these events, which means you can build deeper relationships & eventually you’ll have a network of people to turn to.

To get started, going with someone you know will make things easier – this could be a colleague or even a friend who is also looking to expand their network.

If this isn’t possible, a good tip is to find and inform the organiser that you don’t know anyone. Telling them a bit about who you are and why you’re there can help them make that first introduction for you!

To make all of this worthwhile, make sure to follow-up with people afterward. When exchanging details, a helpful tip is to include a note on what you remember about them to jog your memory when getting in touch later down the line. 

What about networking in the digital world?

Whilst it may be challenging to facilitate strong connections, the beauty of the digital world is its limitlessness.

You can also apply lots of the in-person techniques to online networking, as well as monopolising on the advantages the internet has to offer.

Curating an online presence isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile if you’re looking to make lots of connections.

Engage in conversations on social media, and even start them yourself! There are a multitude of various LinkedIn and Facebook groups to join to keep up to date with events – both virtual and in-person – as well as the newest topics of conversations. This is especially important in an ever-evolving sector like tech & digital.

Attending virtual events is a great way to maintain learning and growth. Following this up with conversations or meetings with either the speaker, organiser or attendees can boost the value for yourself.

Overall, remember to be present, be proactive, listen & engage. The more you network the easier it’ll become, and you may be pleasantly surprised about how fruitful it turns out to be.

The SHIFT Speaker Database aims to highlight the diversity of tech and digital public speakers in the South West, as well as offer support for those new to the sector and region. Our focus is on facilitating platforms for underrepresented voices in tech and digital, in particular:

  • Those from the LGBT+ community
  • Women, trans and non-binary individuals
  • Those of Black and Asian heritage
  • Neurodivergent and disabled individuals

The South West has a thriving tech and digital sector with a track record of holding invaluable events for our community to connect with one another. 

Whilst our sector holds a copious number of events, they, unfortunately, don’t represent the diversity of the region. This is something we can’t afford to ignore as our sector grows alongside the need for diverse talent; the significance of representation has been proven to be a great source of inspiration to those wanting to join the tech and digital sector. 

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.