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Influencing through networking

At the Ark Group conference, the last presentation of the day was from freelance trainer Nick Davies,  on “Influencing through Networking”. Nick is a very engaging speaker, and very funny, so it was a great way to round off the day! I doubt I’ll have captured any of his humour in my notes, but I thought he gave lots of very useful advice, so wanted to blog about it.

The first thing Nick stressed was that influencing and persuading is an ongoing process, not a one-off event. If you want to persuade someone to do something, you need to have built a relationship with them long in advance of actually asking them to do anything.

The second point is that persuasion works emotionally, not logically. Too many people make the mistake of thinking they can convince someone with a list of facts that backs up their point, but people don’t make decisions that way. Most people make decisions on an emotional level, then look for facts to back that up. Nick used the example of the Compare the Market / Compare the Meerkat adverts: these have absolutely nothing to do with the product, in fact they don’t tell you anything about the benefits of the product at all. They are designed purely to provoke an emotional response. And it worked: comparethemarket.com went from about 50,000 hits per month to 2 million hits per month following the launch of this ad campaign*.

Nick’s third tip for influencing people was not to go in too heavy. If you bombard people with information, and try to give them the hard sell, then at best they’ll back off; at worst they’ll become hostile.

Nick then told us the acronym SPICE, which stands for the things you need for your message to be persuasive:

  • Simplicity 
  • Perceived self-interest (what you need to appeal to)
  • Incongruity (i.e. don’t do the expected)
  • Confidence
  • Enthusiasm

He then went on to how you get yourself in a position where you can influence someone. There are two important qualities you need in order to have influence: credibility and trust.

Credibility is down to experience, and also down to how you present yourself. He gave the example of physiotherapists, who were trying to figure out why their patients weren’t sticking to their exercise programmes. After finding that they were more likely to do so if a doctor had told them to, they realised the problem was one of credibility: rightly or wrongly, physiotherapists were not considered as credible as doctors. The solution to this was to display the physiotherapists’ certificates of qualification in their offices: this was the only change they made, but the rates of patients sticking with their exercises shot up. The takeaway from this is that you have to demonstrate your credibility, whether that be through highlighting your qualifications or in other ways – no one will assume, or do this for you!

Regarding trust, this is something that takes time to build. Nick drew a diagram showing the stages of a relationship that most people go through, which went a bit like this:

Acknowledgement – Understanding – Acceptance – Respect – Trust – Bond

This is a lengthy process, and most work relationships tend to get stuck around the “Acceptance” stage. This is partly due to the depersonalised nature of modern workplaces: you don’t learn to respect and trust someone you only speak to via email, and don’t know anything about other than their work.

This led on to a bit of talk about networking. Nick considers it vital (and I agree) to get to know people on a personal level, if you ever want to work successfully with them. He mentioned the importance of small talk – a lot of people say they hate this, but it formed the first step of every relationship you’ve ever had. Small talk is a form of what Nick called “self-disclosure” – letting the other person know little details about yourself, that can form the basis for getting to know each other and building a relationship.

Finally, Nick talked about body language and making a first impression. He said that like it or not, everyone judges on appearances – that is literally all you have to go on when you meet someone for the first time. There are apparently 12 stages of body language that people go through, but the first three are the important ones when you meet someone (apparently as you get further down the list, they get “a bit mucky”**). The first three are:

1. Eye to body – we make an instant judgement based on appearance, clothing, etc. Make sure you are dressed appropriately

2. Eye to eye – make sure you’re paying attention, and smile

3. Hand to hand – handshakes must be firm and dry!


That about wrapped it up – at least, that’s where my notes end! I really enjoyed this presentation, it was a good, lively way to round off the day. A lot of what Nick said was common sense really, or at least should be, but I know I can certainly use the reminder from time to time! He handed out a booklet of networking tips at the end, which is actually quite useful – you can download it from his website as a PDF, along with his other course booklets.


* Obligatory librarian note: Nick didn’t give a source for this, and I couldn’t find any data myself to back it up, so I can’t verify the accuracy of this figure!

** I googled. They do indeed.

One comment on “Influencing through networking

  1. […] Influencing through networking Laura gives a useful summary of some good advice – sounds like it was a great presentation. […]

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