As most business people know, networking is vital, not just to connect with potential clients, but to find suppliers and develop a support network with people with whom you can share and find solutions to problems.
For many people though, just the idea of networking can bring them out in a cold sweat…think of it, walking into a room of complete strangers…
The important thing to remember though is that every single person in that room will have stood where you’re standing at some point or other and so know exactly how you feel.
Here are our top tips for effective networking:
- Look at your options
Decide who it is you want to meet. Each networking group has a different target audience, so is it people in your industry you want to meet or is there a particular industry you want to break into? If that’s the case, then investigate suitable trade associations. If you just want to meet business people in your local area, check out the local networking groups. Do you want to learn or just to meet new contacts? Find out which events have speakers or mastermind sessions and which are purely focused on introducing members.
- Try them out
Go to a few events. You’ll naturally find that you prefer certain kinds of events, whether that’s about the time of day or the kind of people that attend. The the only way to work out which ones are for you is to visit them.
- Go with an open mind
You might find yourself talking to someone who represents an organisation that you think won’t be relevant to you or your business, but networking isn’t just about you and it’s certainly not about selling. The more your network grows, the more you’re able to connect people you know with one another and your contacts will be able to connect you with people you need to know.
- Be patient
Networking is very much like PR, in the sense that the results aren’t instantaneous. It’s unlikely that you’re going to meet your biggest client at your first visit to a networking group, but the more you do it, the better your chances of meeting a great contact.
- Enjoy it!
While networking may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or glass of wine depending on the event!), it is a valuable way to get your company name out into the world and demonstrate to people that you are passionate about your business and good at what you do. If anyone can talk about your business it’s you, so make the most of the opportunity. Apart from anything you might even make some new friends!