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What is effective networking?

It's the time of year when most people are thinking about wrapping up for the year, counting down to their Christmas party, planning Christmas & New Year celebrations, generally starting to switch off. And who can blame us? After all, we work hard all year round and when the festive season sets in with everything that brings - the lights, the sparkle, the music, the mulled wine, the sugar & spice - who can resist joining in with all the festivities?

But if everyone is starting to wind down and switch off where does that leave networking events at this time of year? Are they still effective even if some people might have half an eye on what they're getting up to this Christmas? Or are they another excuse for a cheeky tipple and an afternoon out of the office?

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In the last week as part of my quest to find the best networking circles for 2015 I've attended three networking events, taster events if you like, to sample the format and meet a cross-section of said networking groups' members. It turned out that one of the events was actually the group's Christmas drinks so had a more relaxed vibe than I'm told is otherwise the case – I'll have to see how January's goes to know for sure – but certainly some of the people I met had already been to a networking event earlier in the day and were, how shall I put it, in the festive spirit!

I followed all the advice you read for these types of events, arrived early (earlier than the organiser who was delayed on the train for one!), checked out the attendee list in advance, took plenty of business cards – but didn't card spam - and listened intently. I worked the rooms slowly whilst trying to make a lasting impression, as well as introducing people I'd met who I thought could actually benefit each other. For someone who has never really relished networking, I actually really enjoyed this last week's events. If you're anything like I used to be this article might help get you started.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I walked away with guaranteed business but even so I met some really nice people (waving *hello* to those of you that are reading by the way!) great contacts for the future and I've got some meetings lined up for the New Year that I'm really looking forward to.

I'm a convert. And I don't think it was all down to the Christmas spirit, although the fact that everyone knew they could talk about their festive plans if the conversation lagged I'm sure was helpful. For me, effective networking is more about listening than it is talking (or what is referred to as 80/20). It's about building relationships, sharing ideas and plans to help other people, rather than just trying to make a quick sale.

As they say, "what goes around comes around", so network well and remember to enjoy the event. That's my new motto!

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Written by: Jayne McFahn