#IMAGEinspires: How To Make Networking Less Nerve-Wracking

Group of three friends standing on dock at sunset

Networking is a necessary evil in today’s working world. Sometimes it can be an exercise in torture walking up to a stranger in a professional-ish setting – will they respond to your attempt at small talk? Here we ask some of the nominees in the Creative Industry category for this year’s IMAGE Businesswomen of the Year Awards their thoughts on networking. Read on, you might pick up some tips.

Just breathe

Networking  is such a horrible term that conjures up images of callous, calculating, meaningless  encounters.  I prefer to develop  relationships with other human beings. I tend to be a one on one person, so the idea of “doing the room” used to be a nightmare scenario. However, when this opportunity now presents itself, I find somatic practice invaluable in enabling me to change perspective.  I take some quiet moments of breathing and  mindful practice in advance to ground myself , then  visualise a room full of friends waiting to meet me and go  forward with a smile. I  have a sharp radar for in authenticity , so I can quickly discern who is worth spending time with. It’s all about being oneself and saying one’s truth, the basis of human interaction.
Mary Hawkes Greene, president and CEO, Burren College of Art

Finding a topic to talk about is easier than you think

Are you a good listener? Do you like talking about your career? Well, welcome to networking! That is all it really. Always remember most people really like a chance to talk about what they love or what they are passionate about. Be yourself, that is what people remember.
Anna Keely, principal and managing director, Bronwyn Conroy Beauty School

As an entrepreneur, you’re always on

Remember that every time you to speak to someone you are networking. Whether you are at the shops or in a meeting, everyone is a potential client.
Ann Chapman, owner, Stonechat Jewellers

Avril Stanley, Festival Director, Image 10

Avril Stanley, CEO, festival director and creative director, Body & Soul

If you’re not into traditional networking, try something you’re comfortable with

I have never been truly comfortable with the traditional concept of networking. I am more interested in a genuine connection between people, brands and possibilities. For me, it’s not about ‘the next sale’ but how we could potentially collaborate to create something interesting and innovative together.  To make contact with someone I find inspiring, I prefer to send an email or letter and open a more organic conversation. General advice, from my own experience, would be that when an opportunity arises to network, speak with, or work with someone you respect, give all of yourself and learn what you can from them, ask their thoughts on your ideas and be brave.
Avril Stanley, CEO, festival director and creative director, Body & Soul

I do find networking such an important factor in growing my business. I am however definitely out of my comfort zone at a networking event but I always come away really happy that I made the effort to go. Meeting new contacts is vital to business, I try to go to events where I know I will meet new people at least once a month. When I travel to cites such as London and New York, I arrange a dinner and invite people in the fashion industry or similar business minded people. You never know what might come from these evenings, and they are always fun and give me a refreshed outlook on things.
Lucy Nagle, fashion designer and brand founder, Lucy Nagle Designs Ltd


Don’t Be All ‘Thanks, Penneys’ About Your Accomplishments

Accept compliments.  As a nation we have a terrible habit of putting ourselves down.  If someone compliments you or your business just say ‘thank you’ graciously and move on. And if you can, wear your product.  I’m lucky to work in such a visual industry and, as a result, I let my product talk for me!
Ann Chapman, owner, Stonechat Jewellers

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Networking opens doors and creates possibilities. You don’t know unless you try! Open with a smile and a friendly ‘Hi, I’m Libby’. Only someone with no manners would not respond, you’ll know pretty quickly whether they are friendly or not. Knowing that there’s the possibility of connecting with the right people helps to ease nerves and give courage.
Libby Murray, owner, Elysian Brows

Katherine Sweeney, Founder and Creative Director of PREEN

Katherine Sweeney, Founder and Creative Director of PREEN

You’ve actually been networking for years. Remember your clients/customers?

Networking and building good relationships with our customers, as well as our own team members is fundamental to the success and future growth of PREEN. We want our customers to look and feel amazing when they leave PREEN, so excellent communication and interpersonal skills are a must. These are skills I have honed and perfected over a 20 year career span dealing with the general public and managing hairdressers, all with different personalities, so for me it’s not quite so daunting going into a networking scenario as it may be for others. My number one tip to break the ice in any networking situation is simply to smile.
Katherine Sweeney, managing director and founder, PREEN Hair & Beauty

True networking is looking beyond your inner circle – broaden those horizons

Because we’re sisters in business together, we’ve always been able to bounce ideas off each other, talk things through and play devil’s advocate when needed . A lot of our friends in the beauty industry are amazing artists and very talented, but not a lot of them are business owners. The Businesswoman of the Year Awards have been an amazing opportunity for us to meet other businesswomen like us – it’s amazing how much you have in common even when you’re in totally different industries. The same highs, the same lows, the same stress levels! Being nominated for this award has definitely made us eager to get more involved in networking events in future – turns out it’s not as scary as we thought.
Lorna Farrelly and Elizabeth Farrelly, creative directors, The Brow Artist

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