AIB Start-up Academy Coach Lisa Hughes shares her tips on better networking for business

Picture of Lisa Hughes being interviwed at the AIB Start-Up event.

As one of the mentors in the AIB Start-up Academy, Lisa Hughes uses her years of experience as a career facilitator and coach to guide the participating Start-ups through the entire process from their initial lessons to their final pitch. This week, Lisa shared her advice on networking with the Academy finalists. Read on to find out how you can apply her tips on networking when starting your own business.

How networking can help your business

“Networking is really important when you’re starting off a business. Your ability to be able to articulate your company, what it does and its benefits when you’re meeting people is important.

Networking is about listening. Before you meet somebody, think what you would like to get out of it. Consider how you would structure that conversation, and how you would follow up afterwards. Do you use social media to do that? Or do you use personal contacts, events that you go to, or even just meeting people in the street?

You really need to understand it’s not about what you can get here and now from this contact. It’s more about how you build a network of relationships to create mutual benefit over a longer period.”

3 ways to become a better networker right now

1. Take a look at the existing network that you have.

We have friends, we have colleagues, and we have acquaintances that we know from work and social situations. Sit down and map those out and say, “This is my existing network, what do they know about me and how do they feel about me?” From there, consider what you want them to know about you and what would I like them to say about me? Then think about how you can manage that network and message, so that they can provide opportunities.

2. Consider the kind of resources you need to grow your business.

And who you need help from. Is it from people who are going to invest in your business or people who can make introductions for you? Are you building client relationships? From identifying who you need to target, you should then consider their key influencers and stakeholders, and where the networks these people operate in.

3. Have a look on LinkedIn.

Look at your profile and look at your social media presence. Start to create the kind of profile that will attract that network to you. Follow the same approach you’d take if you were looking for a job. You would write your LinkedIn profile for the job that you want, as opposed to a list of things that you currently do. That way, you start to articulate what problems you solve and how you add can add value to your network.”

Build self-confidence by listening not talking

“My advice to someone, who lacks self-confidence when it comes to networking, is to realise it’s not about you. It’s not about what you say, or how interesting or witty or articulate you are. The biggest skill you can have with networking is to ask questions, because other people like to talk about themselves. The more interested and curious you are about the person in front of you, the more likely you are to make a real connection.

You’re really supposed to do about 20% of the talking. 80% of it is about listening. So ask good questions and then shut up! When you can make people feel you’re really interested in them, that you’ve got genuine curiosity in what it is they do, that will form the basis of a network that will work for you over the long term, rather than in the next five or ten minutes.”

The AIB Start-Up Academy sees 11 new companies compete for the chance to win a prize package worth €250,000 to develop their business. Find out more about the AIB Start-Up Academy and follow the progress of this year’s Academy participants on @AIBBiz and check out our photo album on Facebook.