Networking has been the predominant theme for me this week.
Starting with a 'tekkie brekkie' for engineers in a Dublin hotel with Engineers Ireland, where I endeavoured to educate professional engineers into the secrets of networking, to attending a high-energy meeting of the May Street Economic Forum in Belfast yesterday.
Professionals of all kinds need to understand that networking is the business tool of the 21st century. For sales and business development people it's a powerful tool for sales growth and for professionals, their own career growth. It allows you to expand your networks of influence far and wide, increasing your personal power, brand and opportunities - and all of it without having to pick up a phone and calling someone you have never met.
There is a whole psychology to networking within a room and none of it has to do with the traditional stereotype of the 'brass-necked conversation hijacker' who launches themselves into the middle of other people's conversations. Networking can be learnt - check out my Eagles of Selling programme.
The secret to networking is that its always about the other person - your interest is in them, not you. People like to be listened to, it helps them relax and feel valued and it positions the listener in a very positive frame with those to whom they listen. If you can get permission to engage, you get permission to develop a powerful future relationship. It's a social skill too - many's the time I've had men and women come up to me afterwards saying that they wished they'd learnt these skills prior to getting married...!
Your own networks can also be highly diverse - as I said, networking brought me from a room of professional engineers in Dublin to Belfast business people looking to revitalise the city's community and economic spirit after decades of conflict and then to connecting with colleagues in New York through the e-networking medium Skype.
Reach out - see where it takes you.