In this guest blog, Echo member Selsabil Amine shares her thoughts on the value of strong networks, and how to grow and nurture yours.
Selsabil Amine is a communications strategist passionate about helping businesses boost their voice, mission, and resilience. Starting as a communications intern on Echo’s ‘The Match’ project, Selsabil has published research-based materials on how businesses can bounce back from COVID-19, as well as the future of essential business skills in the ‘new normal’. You can find her on LinkedIn and Echo’s blog.
‘Networking’ has been a buzzword, a cliche, and all-encompassing jargon. But it’s now essential that any project – from small businesses, community startups to sole traders or individual projects – know what effective networking looks like, and how it can be done online as well as in person.
Networking can offer you as much value during the planning and setup phase as much as it does when you’re fully operating. Below are some pointers on how you can get started – and get comfortable – with networking.
Decide on what you want out of networking events
Muddling through a networking event with a cloudy vision of what you want out of it leaves you confused and thinking you’ve wasted your time. Think about what you could benefit from having a network, and set specific goals with these needs in mind.
For example, you may want to simply meet others running projects or businesses similar to your own, or you may want to find other organisations to collaborate with on a particular project or event. You may decide you want to network to find new partners, participants, customers, potential investors, or even ideas for products and services. When you have a specific goal in mind, you can engage in the networking process with clarity and ease.
If you don’t know where to start, check out Echo’s ongoing Breakfast Socials – a virtual space where you can connect and identify how you might collaborate or share skills with a bunch of Echo members and friends.
Connect, connect, connect
It’s little use setting goals and having a great networking session without connecting afterwards. Make sure you connect with your network. That means two things. Firstly, follow up with your new contacts, connect with them on social media, and send out friendly emails to start building relationships.
Secondly, don’t end your networking after your follow up message, and take an interest in your new network’s goals, interests, and activity, especially those that coincide with yours. In ‘Give and Take‘, a book hailed as a brilliant read by the Financial Times and Harvard Business Review, those who network by giving can achieve more for themselves, and their network, in the long run.
Echo has been holding online spaces for small and micro businesses, community projects, sole traders, and collectives to connect and network. One of the things Echo staff have noticed is that helping others is a particularly useful and efficient way to network. This is because offering your network your own services tends to build a trusted relationship that goes deeper than traditional networking.
Sarah, Echo’s Director, said that “People often say that they like being part of Echo because it provides a way of connecting with others that isn’t just about ‘selling yourself’ and can feel more genuine.”
Echo’s experience mirrors Give and Take’s own explanation: the reason why giving works is that the process of building and supporting strong networks can propel those within the network to achieve more, benefiting others within their own network when they give back. A good way to think about this is to offer what you see fit when the benefits to others go beyond your own personal cost.
Schedule a time to network, and only network.
Running a business doesn’t leave its owners or staff much time to network. That is why it’s vital to allocate a time to network, and only network.
This could be spending 15 minutes engaging with your network’s social media, messaging them on LinkedIn, or sending them invites to catch ups. Alternatively, you could attend networking events, workshops, or even set up chat groups.
For more opportunities and information about meaningful networking, consider becoming an Echo member, or get in touch with Echo’s team.