Best networking practices in Edinburgh

networking etiquette
Updated on 15 October, 2019

Networking events are an excellent way to meet potential business contacts, but it is important to observe local customs. Here's how to handle professional meetups in Edinburgh, and build connections that will last. 

What networking events look like in Edinburgh

Networking in Edinburgh is quite relaxed and considered a way to make connections as opposed to formal business leads. Even at large professional conferences, you will usually find informal breakout sessions to delegates to chat casually.

There is a big trend right now for breakfast networking. These events are an opportunity for a casual meetup before the working day begins, and breakfast foods and tea and coffee will be served.

After work drinks-type networking is also common in Edinburgh. While having a drink in your hand certainly makes chatting to strangers less awkward, avoid being drunk. You don't want to be remembered at events for the wrong reasons!

If you arrive at an event and people are already gathered in small groups talking then don't panic: it is perfectly acceptable to move your way into a group. However, this should be done carefully and respectfully, and you should never try and dominate a conversation already underway.

It is important to try and speak to as many people as possible at networking events. Avoid latching onto any one person, though if someone wants to make an introduction for you, then you should embrace it.

What to talk about at networking events in Edinburgh

When making connections with Scottish business associates, it is best to keep the topic of conversation professional, yet light. Personal questions such as: ‘Do you have a boyfriend?' or ‘What political party do you vote for?' - are likely to be misinterpreted and cause offence.

Be prepared with small talk and general industry chat if you want to come across as interesting and well-informed. Look for breaks in the dialogue to introduce yourself with your name and company. If it feels natural, a good approach is to note your interest in the current topic or express your agreement with the speakers' opinions.

Avoid any hard sells or aggressive business tactics, especially at a first networking event. You should listen well and ask questions. If there is someone from a particular business you are eager to meet, then have some talking points prepared. You may want to congratulate them on any recent business successes or ask their opinion on a non-inflammatory industry question.

Edinburgh locals are naturally friendly, so you will likely find they are keen to ask you questions too. Be prepared to talk about yourself and your background. Remember: being an expat makes you instantly interesting to lots of people!

Scots are particular about personal space, so don't stand too close, or engage in physical contact other than a handshake. You should also keep your conversation to a reasonable level: excessive shouting or loud exclamations will not be well received.

Overall, be friendly and approachable - people do business with people they like!

Following up on networking connections in Edinburgh

You should always have business cards to hand at networking events, so you can easily share details with new people. Your employer may provide you with specific cards.

The most common way to reach out to new connections in Scottish business circles is via LinkedIn. It is also acceptable to send a brief and general follow up email to people you particularly enjoyed chatting with.

Gift-giving is rare, and some companies in Scotland actually have policies against it. Extravagant or personal gifts should definitely be avoided. However, sending your business connections a Christmas card during the festive season will be well received.

Networking is a marathon rather than a sprint. Don't expect to generate tangible business leads straight away. However, the more events you attend, the more familiar you will become with your fellow professionals. These long-term relationships are what you should work towards.

Networking dos and don'ts in Edinburgh

Here is a quick guide to successful professional networking in Edinburgh:

  • Do have business cards at the ready; don't try to set up follow-up meetings on the spot.
  • Do shake hands; don't stand too close or touch other networkers.
  • Do have your business pitch summed up and ready; don't focus the conversation solely on yourself.
  • Do research talking points beforehand; don't be afraid to engage in more casual small-talk.
  • Do seek out individuals you have a specific business interest in; don't ignore other delegates - you never know where a winning relationship might develop!
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