How to make every contact count

Networking is no different from the skills you use with patients, says CSP chief Karen Middleton.


I had quite a reaction to my last In Person column about networking (2 July), so I’m going to build on that theme. All networking is about is making contact with people. In the same way we talk about making every contact with patients count, we must do the same with anyone we intend to influence.  This is not just about how we operate at events. It’s about every meeting and every conversation we have  – even in the corridor.

To understand networking, think about the impact others have on you. How do they walk into the room? How do they look?  How do they create a presence? What do they say and how do they say it? And how do they make you feel?

We know that all the above are important when it comes to patients, so translate these skills into your leadership skill set. And don’t get caught out!

I was successful in getting a job once as a result of someone observing me at a meeting and later suggesting I apply. I hadn’t even been aware of that person’s presence at the meeting let alone the fact she was watching me!

You will all, I’m sure, have met people that you would like to come and work with you – because there was just something about the way they conducted themselves that inspired you.

We all know people we look forward to meeting or bumping into and those who we don’t. We also know those who suck the life out of us and those who give us an energy boost.

Every contact has the potential for a whole range of outcomes.  While you cannot control all of the variables, do control what you can. 

So here are my tips:

  • appearance is important. How you dress shows your respect for others and so it matters
  • confidently walking into a room has more impact than sliding in – and don’t be late!
  • take note in a meeting of who people are. I always draw the table and put the first names and organisation or job title as people introduce themselves
  • try to say something, but don’t speak for the sake of it. Questions are a great route into any conversation.
  • asking for help is also another technique I use. This alters the power balance between you and the other person, which will usually get you a positive response
  • listen attentively and be ‘present’. Mobiles and iPads are a distraction so be wary of how and when you use them, if at all
  • think about the language you use. Try to talk about solutions rather than problems. Problems switch us all off as we have enough of those ourselves already. But hearing how you can solve my problem grabs my interest! Try and use ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ as it makes all the difference in a sentence as it has a more positive tone
  • lastly, take notice. The next time you ‘make a contact’ reflect on the impact you made and the outcome you achieved. Try to break down what worked and what didn’t and why.Make that conversation really count! fl


Karen Middleton

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