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GROUP • CREATIVE • DIGITAL • EVENTS Tuesday 23rd September 2014

PLEASED TO MEET YOU?

For anonymity and the avoidance of a P45, the identity of the Secret Agent must remain hidden. We join our mole in the London property agency world as they consider the skills of networking…

The autumn brings a clutch of big property events that call on the skill-set which we British find most challenging: networking.

Completely Retail & Leisure Marketplace, the BCSC conference, Expo Real, MIPIM London, MAPIC and many more: they come thick and fast and will only relent when the festive season is upon us.

Plonk your average Brit in a room full of strangers and they’ll freeze. We’re just not culturally suited to mixing. Maybe it’s something to do with being an island race.

Plonk your average Brit in a room full of strangers and they’ll freeze

It’s quite amazing how often if you introduce yourself to a stranger with a ‘Hello, I’m Jack/Jill from the Wonderful Company’ all you’ll get in response is a ‘Hello’ and a handshake.

The standard conversational openings get us nowhere. Nobody actually answers the question ‘How are you?’. If you want a laugh, spend a week responding truthfully and in detail to that question and watch people squirm.

‘How do you do?’ is just plain weird. How do I ‘do’ what?

The strangest of all – especially in a business context – is ‘Pleased to meet you’. It’s rarely, if ever, true. Maybe we should change it to ‘Necessary to meet you’. Anyway once we’ve got over the strange hurdles of national etiquette, we need to remember that networking is about information exchange.

It’s about having an idea of what you want to communicate in a business environment. It doesn’t mean you have to come over as a timeshare salesman but it also means you shouldn’t stand there talking exclusively about your summer holidays/last night’s match. At some point you need to get to the point.

I’m a bit evangelical about this at the moment because we had a big client drinks party before the summer break. I walked in shortly after it started and it looked like a cross between a school disco and a doctor’s waiting room.

On one side of the room was a clutch of our own people huddled together for social warmth. In the middle, a few ‘evolved’ people had actually found clients to talk to. But by far the worst of it was about a dozen individuals who were stood around on their own, nursing their drinks and looking unwanted.

These were people who pay money for our services and we’d invited them to this social Siberia! Arses were kicked on the spot, and now networking training has been implemented across the firm.

I’m not sure this is something we should have to teach people, but it seems that’s the way it is.

Thankfully events like the Completely Group’s Marketplace events, and others focus on one-to-one networking and getting business done face-to-face and provide great environments to engage with contacts old and new.

I love British understatement, irony and all the other characteristics of our self-deprecating nation but hey people, we’re here to do business! So let’s get stuck into the networking.

Just promise you won’t say ‘Pleased to meet you’…