Networking in Aesthetics

By Kate Byng-Hall / 16 Mar 2023

Miss Priya Chadha and business manager Lauren Gibson share their advice on making valuable connections in the aesthetics specialty

Whether you’re a fan of it or not, networking is a crucial part of growing your knowledge and connections in the aesthetics specialty. For practitioners, clinic staff and company representatives alike, networking facilitates conversations around advanced techniques, clinical innovations and business advancement which can be beneficial for all.

Networking can take many forms, and various contexts can prompt different conversations. The aesthetics specialty provides a range of networking scenarios, including large conferences like ACE and CCR, awards ceremonies like The Aesthetics Awards, meetings of associations like BCAM and BACN, product launch events, masterclasses and training courses.

In this article, plastic surgery registrar and director of training provider Acquisition Aesthetics Miss Priya Chadha and country manager for Hydrafacial in the UK and Ireland Lauren Gibson share their tips on overcoming the nerves to network efficiently and build your connections.

Getting started

Introducing yourself and initiating conversations, especially with respected industry figures, does not come naturally to all. Introverts comprise an estimated 30-50% of the adult population.1 While being an introvert does not necessarily coincide with being shy, according to international networking speaker Andy Lopata, many introverted individuals will find networking more difficult than natural extroverts because they may prefer intimate conversations to large, overwhelming gatherings.2 In fact, according to psychology writer Olivia Guy-Evans, even some extroverts will be faced with nerves when in new and unfamiliar situations like networking events.3 However, apprehension does not have to be a barrier to networking successfully.

Miss Chadha shares, “When I first started out, I disliked attending conferences. I felt so awkward and was really hesitant to even attend for the learning. Networking began to get easier for me when I went into conversations with clear intentions. Instead of just going over and having a conversation with no direction, I approach people with a specific comment about their work or a particular area of interest. You don’t need to do this with everyone – that can drain your energy. Stick to people whose advice you think could prove useful to you in your personal or professional journey.”

Gibson highlights that there’s no shame in building on your networking skills gradually if you struggle with it, saying, “If you’re nervous, my advice is to slowly build your confidence. At your next event, take small steps to building your networking skills, grab a drink and do a circuit of the room, introducing yourself to a couple of people as you make your way round.” She suggests you could plan questions or topics of conversation before arriving at events to set your intentions, as Miss Chadha also recommends. Some of Miss Chadha’s frequent options include ‘How long have you been in the industry?’, ‘How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?’ or ‘What excites you the most about your work right now?’ Open questions such as this will trigger more interesting discussions, rather than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You can even compliment someone’s outfit as a way to initiate a conversation.

Making an impression

Networking events can often be a whirlwind, especially in the case of a conference with hundreds or even thousands of attendees. One challenge when introducing yourself is not only making a good first impression, but one that sticks – you need to be memorable.

Miss Chadha says the best way to get on someone’s good side instantly is by being polite and kind. In fact, displaying warmer behaviour upon first meeting someone can prompt them to treat you more favourably in turn.4 Gibson believes just ‘being a person’ is the key to this. “I think we’ve got into this culture of our career defining us,” she says, “but sometimes that’s not what people want to hear. They want to know you as a person and what your story is in the industry, versus the business you’re working for.”

Gibson says that eye contact is one of the most important elements of any networking conversation. In fact, a 2022 study by Caroline Di Bernardi Luft et al. showed that two brains’ gamma frequencies become more synchronised when eye contact is maintained.5 Gibson explains, “We’re all so busy connecting with other likeminded professionals digitally, that we sometimes forget how great it feels when somebody really listens to what you’re saying, looks you in the eye, smiles and doesn’t interrupt you.”

Adding value to a conversation is another skill Miss Chadha and Gibson both emphasise. Just as you can consider what types of questions you want to ask going into an event, you can consider what you want to present about yourself as well. Gibson suggests entering a conversation by commenting on something you’re particularly passionate about to get the other person’s opinion. For example, ‘I’m really passionate about mentoring young people in aesthetics. What are your thoughts on this?’ This will allow you to instantly find common ground with people who could be valuable connections, she explains.

Miss Chadha suggests that being clear and specific makes it more likely that you will achieve tangible results from a networking conversation. “I remember the people who come to me with a purpose,” she says. “Unfortunately, I can’t mentor everyone, so if someone comes to me asking if they can reach out after the event, there’s no guarantee I’ll get back to them. But if they come up to me and say, ‘Priya, your talk was great, could I have 10 minutes of your time tomorrow over a coffee to hear more about how you juggle work and motherhood’ or something like that, I’ll probably say yes. It’s finding the common ground and ensuring a more human connection. It’s really important to me that I know exactly how I can help you, and that can often be established in the first few moments of meeting. It’s a little more direct, but I certainly prefer that.”

Gibson highlights that if you attend events on the behalf of a company, it’s crucial not to spend the entire time selling your products. She explains, “At the end of the day, people buy from people, so if you are authentic, listen to what they have to say and don’t just think about how you are going to close that sale, the more positive the outcome will be.”

She says she never attends events with a sales target because the focus should be on the conversations. She believes that if people chat to you and feel like they’ve been in a sales pitch, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to close any sales. She continues, “If you get somebody excited about your brand, you might see them at the next event and the conversation kicks off again. If they feel like you’ve been genuine and authentic with them, they’re more likely to continue to engage with you.”

Building your circle

Networking is not just about climbing a ladder of experience by talking to industry celebrities. Miss Chadha shares that in her experience, creating a close circle of people at your level is just as important. She says, “Networking has allowed me to build my own network: my safe space which I always fall back on and who always give me security to keep going. So, build your network at your level, as well as above and below. People always think networking is social or network climbing, but you must build your own tribe to keep growing.”

She always says that knowing people at the same point of their career helps with mutual confidence building when attending events. “The absolute key is having a partner (or partners) in crime. Somebody with whom your confidence immediately goes up when you’re together. You get on, you’re at the same stage, you’re growing together, you’re learning from each other. Having people like that gives you the solidarity and assurance that you sometimes really need,” she explains.

Miss Chadha highlights training courses or masterclass days as particularly valuable opportunities to build this ‘tribe’. She explains that you have immediate common ground as you’re all learning, and you can further your knowledge as well as your social circle by staying in touch after the course. This network is also valuable if you ever need any advice from those going through similar processes. She says, “My tribe is my bar, and every time one of us ups our bar, the others do too.”

Becoming established

If networking still sounds intimidating, both Miss Chadha and Gibson emphasise that nailing the fundamentals is the key to success, many of which will come more naturally than you might think. There are basics to networking you shouldn’t forget, like remembering someone’s name, with Gibson saying, “We forget to appreciate people and say ‘Thank you so much for that conversation, it was really great to connect with you’. Those little things stick in somebody’s mind after they’ve met you.” She says that once you lay these foundations with connections, there will be more and more familiar faces at each networking event you attend, and it’ll get easier to immerse yourself in them each time.

Miss Chadha emphasises, however, that networking need not be a huge cause of stress. Whilst attending events is hugely useful, sometimes your comfort area is going to be the most productive place for you to grow. She says, “Maybe you want to network from behind a screen – send an email or a comment on Instagram. Maybe that’s better for you, and that’s okay.” Indeed, research from Jennifer Pickett et al. found that if an introverted individual tried to display extroverted characteristics for an extended period, they experienced depleted levels of vitality soon afterwards, showing that trying to act like an extrovert will not necessarily be effective when networking.6 A slow and steady development of your networking skills is the way to go when building connections in the aesthetics specialty.

Upgrade to become a Full Member to read all of this article.