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As CIOs are building more relationships outside of IT, skills such as communication and networking have become key traits for them to develop in 2017.

According to the Spiceworks tech career survey, 56% of IT professionals are planning to improve their networking skills to help drive innovation.

The power of relationship building can lead to CIOs winning new customers, finding new investors and recruiting talent. While improving your networking skills can lead to many opportunities for CIOs, CIO UK shares its tips on how they can improve them to help benefit the company. (See also: Why a CIO should join a CIO community.) 

Research

Whether it is an open day, conference or meeting, being prepared is a must for CIOs today.

A CIO should have a set goal of what they want to achieve from the networking opportunity by taking the time to research the topic and who will be attending. An icebreaker or having a list of questions prepared can help create a conversation while also making members feel more at ease. 

Taking note of members attending will help CIOs to ask the right questions about the organisation, while also giving them a chance to develop new business opportunities. This will help add credibility to a CIO's role and also boost their confidence for future networking events.

Challenge yourself

Networking can provide CIOs the opportunity to share ideas, expand their contact base and be influenced by industry peers.

In some organisations, networking has become a vital skill as the CIO is often reliant on making connections for business expansion. CIOs should challenge themselves by stepping out of their comfort zone by giving talks at industry events and leading group presentations. This will not only boost their confidence but also develop their managerial and leadership skills as a CIO.

Join networking groups

Network groups have become a great tool for CIOs to use as it can fit around their demanding schedules.

LinkedIn and Twitter are great ways to connect with colleagues, peers and industry experts on a digital platform. What's more, it is a great source of information where users can publish articles and share ideas while also keeping the business profile visible.

While remaining visible can help organisations stay relevant in their industry, CIO 100 organisations including Francis Crink Institute, 2 Sisters Food Group and Said Business School have encouraged their employees to join network groups to help inspire new ideas.

CIO networking groups have become a support network for digital leaders through sharing useful information, offering leads and finding business clients. Through regular engagement, they can help CIOs build relationships with fellow experts and keep them engaged while also remaining reputable sources for industry peers. (See also: 10 groups CIOs should join on LinkedIn.) 

Attend events

Regularly attending business events can help CIOs and businesses get their profile known.

CIOs should always carry a business card as it can be a great marketing tool for organisations today. While business cards make your profile more memorable it can also develop further opportunities with business clients.

Northern Powergrid head of IT Russell Morris, who is part of several social network groups, believes face-to-face engagement is the most effective way of networking and can help widen his contact base at the company.

“There is nothing more rewarding than sharing with the industry how you tackled a problem, the mistakes you make along the way and how to avoid them the second time around," he said. "I find this pays me back 10-fold when I myself face a new challenge, I am not short of people I can call on for help and advice."

Discussing challenges with fellow leaders can help make a business more reputable and open to sharing their experiences. Through attending events it can help CIOs to gain advice from industry peers while also providing the support and guidance to deliver a successful business strategy. 

Be approachable

Whether it's online or face-to-face contact, having an open and welcoming approach to colleagues can have an impact on the initial relationship.

CIOs should make eye contact, have positive body language and a use clear tone when speaking with fellow groups as it can help demonstrate your enthusiasm in your role while also becoming a great ambassador for the business.

To make other people feel at ease, CIOs should introduce themselves to others, offer advice or give them a client referral which can help establish the time and effort put in to building the relationship.

While making an effort with others can help layer the foundations of a relationship, CIOs should ensure they maintain contact with leaders. As networking takes time CIOs should make regular contact with others by arranging meetings and using collaboration tools to help ensure they remain visible as a digital leader. (Read next: How CIOs can improve communication with their team.)