Giles O’Halloran shares a strategy that can help keep your network alive and active…
It has been proven that taking networks offline and making them happen in the real world adds value to the relationships between people. Meeting someone makes them more memorable and you can learn a great deal from one another that could help you or your shared networks.
The simplest way to do this is to invite someone to grab a coffee (or any other form of beverage) when you are in town, or somewhere where you can both get to quite easily.
It is best to choose a venue that is easy to find, central to you both and within easy access of parking or public transport. In the same light, it is also worth considering the ambience of the venue. Is there enough light, is there wireless access, does it allow you to have a confidential conversation if required and can you simply hear one another talk? You need to ensure that the location you choose is appropriate for the setting and intentions of that meeting.
The initial conversation and icebreaking is always the hardest bit, and it can be more harrowing if you have not met the person before or only very briefly on a previous occasion. The simplest small talk to make you feel at ease is to ask about the journey, and what that person is up to at work or in their life.
You need to seriously consider what you want to get out of the meeting and steer the conversation appropriately, but also remember that it is very much a two way process. You both need to come away from the meeting with something useful and worth following up. Therefore it might be worth making a mental or physical list of things you would like to discuss and gauge their interest. Ask the same of them, and even share or agree an agenda prior to the meeting.
The more you both share key information that can be of use to one another, the more you will both feel positive about the meeting. So, think about how you can help the other individual either prior to or during the discussions. In the same light, you are not expected to know everything about everything. This is where your network might be able to help. It is worth considering sharing contacts or facilitating introductions that might help one another.
Some meetings will provide short-term positives and others may need to develop over time. However, once the meeting is at a close, agree commitments or actions that you will both do and then follow up. By doing so, not only can you summarise the meeting, manage expectations and ensure it was a good investment of time for you both, but it also keeps the relationship alive and open for further discussions, meetings and sharing down the line that could be extremely productive.
About The Author
Giles O'Halloran is an experienced HR and Recruitment professional who works as a freelance consultant, strategist, writer and coach. He also spent 12 years as a reservist with the UK's Reserve Forces, serving first with the TA and later with the RAuxAF. Giles is passionate about technology, the value of networks and the future of work.