When you network, you don’t know who you’ll meet, and that’s how some of the best connections are made. Saskia Johnston, senior business development and client relationship manager of Sable International’s forex division, breaks down the dos and don’ts of business networking and the benefits of having a strong business network.

People sitting around a table connecting

1. What are some benefits of attending networking events?

At networking events you get to meet many people from a vast variety of industries, businesses and professions. You can get to know them and help each other develop and grow your respective businesses. 

2. What are some of the challenges of networking?

Sometimes people don’t understand or appreciate that networking is about building relationships through the pillars of like, know and trust. They tend to just want to hunt and sell their services as opposed to exploring potential for collaborative opportunities.

3. I am new to this industry and don’t know many people – how do I network?

In London, just punching networking into Google will give you a plethora of networking opportunities. It’s easy to start with Google, and when you meet someone you get on with, ask them where else they network. The majority of networkers are exceptionally helpful and will be able to suggest a variety of suitable networking opportunities.

4. If someone has too much business that they are struggling to keep up with, how can networking help?

As any business owner will tell you, it isn’t when the times are great that you need to fuel the future pipeline, but consistency is king, and consistent networking can ensure that your business has a future proof pipeline.

I would also challenge someone who says they are too busy by asking them if they could, or would like to, do better. If the answer is yes, then networking is a great place to further yourself and your business through the good times and the bad.

5. Do you have to be an extroverted person to be successful at networking events? Can you offer a few tips for anyone who might be shy?

Most of the best networkers are “unnatural” networkers – it’s amazing to see how professionals can be challenged and progress to network very efficiently even if they are naturally introverted and shy.

Some top tips would be to just take the plunge. Go networking at a time and place that you’re most comfortable, and I am confident the room will welcome you and you will forget that you were nervous in minutes.

If you still aren’t sure, please feel free to reach out to me directly and I’d be happy to talk you through some of the networking groups that I frequent. You‘ll also have a friendly face whom you have spoken to beforehand to meet you at the door. A few great books on the subject are, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The Unnatural Networker by Charlie Lawson.

6. What is the best way to stay in touch with connections?

I always follow up directly with any connections I’ve made, and if there are any potential synergies, we catch up on a call or over a coffee. Online tools like LinkedIn are great to enable you to frequently stay front of mind with any connections you have made.

Consistency is also key and ensuring you go back to the networking group or event more than once will always help contacts remember you.

7. What should you never do or say at a networking event?

“Buy my stuff” is a taboo I avoid at networking events, and I think most networkers would agree that we are there to build relationships and not to sell or be sold to.

8. Is paying a membership fee to join a networking group worth it?

There are many networks that have a membership fee, and membership can add substantial value to your network and business. It’s always important to assess the network, speak to some members who pay the fee and understand what value they get from being a member. In some instances, it is undoubtedly worth it and the return on investment is immeasurable in terms of direct business received and self-development. In other cases, I haven’t found the membership worth it.

9. How do you prepare for a networking event?

If there is an attendee list distributed beforehand it’s always good practice to go through it and identify any key people you would like to meet. Organisers are generally fantastic connectors and if you let them know on arrival, they will generally make every effort to connect and introduce you to these people.

I would also research and make sure you know what to expect of the event. Will there be a 60 second elevator pitch? Are you expected to pass business cards or wear a badge? What’s the dress code?

Knowing all the ins and outs and the format of the event can be critical for success and ensures that you arrive prepared for optimal success. If you have the opportunity to present your business in a short pitch, then I would prepare it tailored for the attendees you expect to be there.

10. Why do you attend networking events?

In short, to grow my business, but the benefits of networking have far surpassed any expectation I had, and now I find it a great place to exchange interesting ideas, business practices, industry news, self-development, public speaking development and more.

11. Where do you usually network?

I’m always networking in some description, but for more formalised events, I mostly network in and around London as that’s where I live. I have also networked in South Africa, Poland, Malta, France, Germany, Sark and all over the UK.

12. What do you enjoy most about networking?

I enjoy meeting so many like-minded business professionals from different walks of life, sectors, industries and business coming together for a common goal.

13. How do you hear about groups and events?

Many networkers are serial networkers, so there’s no shortage of events and networks to attend. I mostly attend new events from word of mouth.

14. Could you give a few names of networking groups you recommend becoming part of? 

If it’s out there in London, I have probably tried it. I used networking to grow my professional network when I landed in London from South Africa, knowing a grand total of four people in the UK.

I wouldn’t recommend becoming a member of any group before visiting, but I can recommend visiting one of the following:

  • Business Networking International (BNI)
  • 4Networking (4N)
  • The Executive Association of Great Britain (EAGB)
  • Women in Business Networking (WIBN)
  • NRG Networks (NRG)

If you aren’t sure what may suit you and your objectives, you’re more than welcome to get in touch.

15. What has been the most memorable event?

The most memorable event, purely for its geography and scale, was the BNI Global Convention in Warsaw, Poland earlier this year. It featured 3,000 business owners from 74 countries and was an amazing event to be a part of and certainly very different from anything I have done before.

The goal of networking is to build relationships. A strong network can result in new customers, partners and opportunities. Get out there you never know what opportunities might appear.

If you’d like to network with Saskia, or you have a query about any of our forex services, email forex@sableinternational.com or call +44 (0) 20 7759 7554.

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