Construction Cost & Project Management

Networking – same the world over?

April 6, 2018

(Post by Poole Dick Ambassador Andrew Thorp)

It was fascinating chatting to Martin Brownsill and Andy Bayley about their recent trip to the MIPIM event in Cannes (pictured above). This was Poole Dick’s fifth visit to the conference, an extraordinary occasion which regularly attracts over 25,000 delegates from all areas of the construction sector.

Admittedly, it’s a long way to go for some networking. But when people move out of their normal environment and meet in an unusual setting, it tends to open minds and encourage dialogue. Defences come down; it’s why we do away-days and leadership retreats.

Some things certainly sounded different, not least the language barrier Andy encountered in a Cannes supermarket. Google Translate only got him so far and he eventually resorted to a series of frantic gestures, pointing at various pictures to obtain his bananas and salted butter!

Despite the inevitable cultural differences Andy and Martin’s MIPIM experiences were remarkably familiar to anyone who attends networking events. The venue may have been more glamorous but the principles remain the same.

I recall a blog I wrote a while back which characterised the more questionable networking behaviours we all see on our travels. For example, there’s the meerkat, the person who loses interest in you during the conversation and stretches their neck to look over your shoulder for someone else to sell to. It’s rude and thankfully not commonplace at Cannes this year.

Rather than focus on the negative, here are FIVE slightly unusual tips for effective networking:

Be interested
Enter the room with the right intent (be interested in people and try to find a connection with them). Oddly enough, by being interested you come across as interesting.

Pretend to be the host
If you’re nervous about networking, imagine you’re the host. Show people where the toilets are, where to hang their coats, how the buffet works and which speakers to look out for. It’s a kind of ‘fake-it-til-you-make-it’ approach.

Wear something unusual
Wear something noteworthy like a badge for a charity you represent, or an unusual necklace. It’s a conversation-starter for the people you encounter.

Flip the conversation
When someone asks you what you do, don’t tell them, “Oh, I’m an architect with so-and-so.” Try something different: “Actually, do you mind if I ask YOU something?” That gives you a chance to control the conversation and react to what THEY say, perhaps finding common ground.

Top and tail
Allow enough time for your networking event. It’s odd but in my experience the best conversations often happen on the way into the room or right after the event has finished. But if you’re late arriving and have to dash off early you miss the best bits.

Happy networking and bonne chance!