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How to network with confidence

It’s one thing to connect with a network; it’s another to capture a network.

This was the takeaway message on Monday afternoon, just before the Welcome Reception for delegates at Ozwater’22, from Sally Prosser to an absorbed audience of young water professionals as she provided her tips on networking hacks.

An experienced TV news reporter, company spokesperson, and qualified speech and drama teacher, Prosser spoke to those newer to the water sector on how to speak with confidence and find commonality while networking.

Prosser previously worked in Public Relations at Urban Utilities, and it was in Brisbane at Ozwater’18 that Louise Dudley, Urban Utilities CEO and current AWA President, encouraged her to go into her current field of business skills training.

What’s your energy level?

Prosser compared a person’s energy to a wifi signal, encouraging people to be aware of what energy they’re bringing – whether they have the dot, a single bar, or firing at full strength.

“Think about the energy you’ve got going,” said Prosser. “Check in to what your energy is – that’s what you will take into any meeting.”

Prosser then posed the question to the audience – how do you get firing at full strength when the energy level is low?

The answer from the audience came, much like with problematic wifi, to try turning it off and on again.

While getting enough sleep is an important part of keeping up one’s energy levels, it’s also key to ensure you get up early and face the day rather than have it face you.

“You don’t want to start the day on the back foot and then run around late all day. Protect your time when you can to give yourself the energy you require when you need it,” said Prosser.

Prosser continued that when you can set the energy of a meeting rather than get the energy of a meeting, you will be able to build rapport more comfortably and be able to hold respect for both yourself and the people you interact with.

Presenting yourself with confidence

Prosser compared a successful networking conversation to playing a friendly game of tennis.

Firstly comes the serve, as you kick off the conversation, considering commonalities that can assist in building rapport.

Then comes the rally – give information to get information, but be mindful to not just simply talk at the person, and to avoid one-upping.

Lastly comes the end of the game, when you part amicably, and the importance of having strategies on how to leave a conversation.

Prosser also encouraged attendees to write themselves a three-line pep talk, using their own words and beliefs to affirm themselves.

Boosting this confidence was extended with attendees encouraged to introduce themselves to others at their table by saying their full name, and hitting the stressed syllable in each of their first name and surname.

Lastly, mindfulness of body language was discussed, and the importance of being grounded and being aware of where you point your feet.

“Our feet point to where the heart wants to go,” said Prosser.

Prosser also encouraged attendees to keep their hands to their belly button and make gestures intentional, quoting Immanuel Kant in saying “the hand is the visible part of the brain.”

All body language is open to interpretation, Prosser posited, but an awareness of what works and how you believe you present yourself can only be advantageous to you.

Inclusivity in networking

Attendees also discussed how to engage with one another inclusively, with AWA Head of International and Industry Programs Sally Armstrong leading the conversation.

Armstrong encouraged people to not be nervous about saying the wrong thing if they come from a good place, using the example in the past of people asking if she had a boyfriend when she had a girlfriend.

Armstrong made the case that we all make mistakes daily and are all human, and should not be too uptight about making well-meaning errors about a person.

The audience was able to ask questions for inclusivity tips, with one asking about Armstrong’s insights into international networking.

She said in her current role she tries to understand the cultural differences of each country and attempts to learn parts of the language of the people she knows she will be communicating with, and makes it clear that she is learning and does not want to offend.

Another audience question touched on neurodiverse people, with Armstrong saying that we need to appreciate difference and show respect to those we engage with.

“Try to see the highest intention of others,” said Prosser, wrapping the segment up.

As the workshop came to an end, Prosser encouraged those attending networking events to receive more business cards than they give away by the end of it.

As attendees left the workshop and made their way to the Ozwater’22 Welcome Drinks, it was apparent to see that the advice was taken to heart.

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