algarve wine society at Bridão tasting (2).JPG

The more people you know, the more your business can grow

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

When invited to a speed networking event in Lisbon at the Lisbon Association of Commerce (ACL), I admit to initially being somewhat sceptical.

After all, isn’t networking just about making contacts within a business environment and hasn’t it been going on, without any fancy labels, for centuries?

Surely every time one attends an event and meets someone new, gives out a business card and explains what one does, then that is networking?

It used to be called, in the days before jargon overburdened our business language, making contacts and selling one-self.

Now, I had heard of speed dating, that rather suspicious and disreputable activity that took off in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1990s aimed at stressed professionals who didn’t have time for a social and love life. God forbid this will prove equally as useless and embarrassing!

How wrong I was. I never could have imagined that speed networking could be so much fun, stimulating and productive.

It can really open doors to a whole new way of doing business – one that is much more personable and human and less aggressive and ‘hunter going in for the kill’ orientated.

After an introduction by Miguel Moreira, from Algés-based Big Eventos (www.speednetworking.com.pt), the curious assembled were treated to a surprisingly fascinating and insightful seminar on the topic by Portuguese consultant Valter Alcoforado Barreira, who has done a post-graduate doctorate on the subject and started his own networking business aptly called Knowing Counts, Networking You.

In a 30-minute talk, Valter Barreira explained that networking was much more than just exchanging a business card which ended up in a pile with all the other business cards with forgotten names and companies.

It was about building win-win relationships, challenging preconceived mindsets, taking a less exploitational and aggressive stance and employing a more strategic approach using social acumen to build relationships.  

The group of 50 or so assembled would-be ‘networkers’ were then arranged along the length of two tables.

“What I have I got myself into?” I thought. I’m a journalist not a big businessman, and I was supposed to be catching up with an old friend and giving him some support!

Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say, and on the ring of a bell the first networker sat himself down in front of me. Initially there’s a cordial strain and distance.

But once the ice had been broken and the initial introductions had been made, I realised that I had more in common with at least half of the people in that room than I could ever have imagined or even given myself credit for.

Suddenly I found myself explaining that I had links in the world of property, journalism, could translate, do advertising and publicity brochures in English, cover events as a photographer, organise company websites in English and not only that there were several companies interested in the services that I could provide!

And rather like musical chairs, it was a fast-moving and fun experience. People I knew, they knew, experiences I’d had, they too shared and there was, finally, a meeting of minds.

And of course the Portuguese, so friendly and adept in other cultures and climes, so adaptable and open to new ideas are potentially the perfect networkers.

After all didn’t they create the first global village, didn’t they go around the world in the 15th century ‘networking’ in India, China, Japan, Thailand and Brazil?

In short, speed networking is the perfect platform to increase your potential for development and see what you need to do to meet the requirements of others.

It’s by generating contacts that you increase the chances of building up your business and creating fresh and exciting new opportunities.

But it has to be a two-way street and it can’t be aggressively capitalistic. There has to be a symbiosis, a feeling of giving rather than just taking – whether that is in terms of information, support, contacts or situations.

That way people remember you and your serviceability and, keeping you in mind, spread your name and services far and wide.

For more information on future speed networking events, visit www.speednetworking.com.pt and www.knowingcounts.net