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Networking: an activity utilised by various socioeconomic groups to share information, build social capital, seek potential mutual benefits and discuss opportunities.

Part of my job involves meeting and coaching many Executives who have, over the years, dedicated their days and nights to developing their careers, forgetting that establishing and maximising a network is as critical to their careers as hard work is.

Networking is essential to our careers both within our organisations and externally. It means we establish and develop contacts, track them and make time for them. Easier said than done I know, even the most confident amongst us are outside of their comfort zone and can end up trembling before entering a room full of colleagues and/or strangers.

There are steps you can take to make it easier and more comfortable – preparation is the key.

Make sure you are dressed appropriately and comfortably: there is nothing worse than entering a room and being over or under dressed – you want to stand out for the right reasons.

Do your homework: if possible, research the people who you are likely to meet and find some common ground.

Be you: networking is about being real, genuine and authentic establishing a trust.

Prepare some openers and ice breakers.

Understand your value and what knowledge you have to share that might benefit others.

Have your business cards at the ready and ask other delegates for theirs.

Take a deep breath and go for it: big smile, be warm and friendly. Remember that everyone feels the same.

Finally ensure you follow up by email or phone.