Let's imagine | 1230 TWC

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Johanne Narayn


Let’s imagine

..that you’ve never been to a networking event – well, it happens.  You could be a start-up, never seen the value of going, whatever.  How do you know which to attend?  What do you do when you get there?  Do you need to prepare?   What do you do afterwards?

3 magic pointers to help you make those decisions

What is business networking anyway?  Networking (formal) is a low-cost method of making contacts with like-minded people to build trusting relationships for business growth.  Formal networking is at organised events, informal networking is talking to anyone, anywhere – supermarket, school gates.

So…

1)  Where to go

This decision can be confusing and difficult with so many choices.  If you’re a start-up business, funds are often tight, so it’s tempting to attend only “free” networking events.  They’re “free” inasmuch as you don’t pay an entry fee.  They’re not actually free because you need to factor in your travel time, time there, plus what happens afterwards.  You’re likely to meet a lively and enthusiastic bunch of people.  The down-side is that there is no structure to these events, there may be a speaker, but you are left pretty much to your own devices.  And if you aren’t prepared in how to manage your time whilst you’re there, attendance could be a total waste of your time.

Paid for networking events, in the main have a successful structure – perhaps a speaker and particularly important, the opportunity to showcase your business offering with a 1 minute talk to everyone present.  Notice I say “your business offering”, not “what you do” – we’ll come to that in a moment.

All networking takes effort, and success from your time doesn’t happen overnight.  Would you marry the first person you meet?  Well, some do I know, but generally you take time to get to know the person before leaping! It takes time to build relationships and is often a slow-burn so you need to attend regularly – otherwise, how does anyone know about you, you’re invisible.

Don’t be a networking butterfly, dashing here there and everywhere.  Try some events out, make the decisions and attend regularly – remember, you’re building relationships.

2)  What to do & Preparation

Having done your research on the type of people likely to be there, make sure you have the following with you:

  • Business cards or flyers
  • Pen/pencil paper (to make notes when listening to other speakers).  This helps you identify those to follow up with – don’t dismiss anyone.  Useful for referring to in future.Also useful should you not have any cards with you as you’re waiting on the printer – it happens.Always have these with you for those informal times too!
  • Pockets!  Pockets are extremely useful when networking.  Your business cards in one pocket, those received in the other.  For us girls, this means no fluffing around in handbags!
  • Your diary – to book those all-important one-to-ones – strike while the iron is hot!

If you’re a newbie to networking what to do when you arrive may seem daunting.  At paid for events (certainly at 1230 TWC meetings) you’ll be introduced to someone to get you started.  If not, then look around to see if anyone else is looking a bit lost.  Groups of people will generally open up and include you in the conversation.  If not, then ask the organiser to introduce you.

Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone, circulate to make the most of your time there.

3)  Afterwards

So what do you when you return to the office armed with business cards, flyers and notes?  Quantity doesn’t count, it’s quality of contacts.  So which can you manage better – 300 contacts including follow-ups, or 3?

  • Follow up – always do what you’ve promised.  Arrange 1:1 meetings to find out more.  BTW – your 1 minute should focus on how your business could benefit the audience.  Saying “I’m an IT trainer” is likely to turn the lights out in their eyes, but if you say “I can save you loads of time” then the spark will be there and they will come and find you.
  • Add the contact details to your database – you do have a database, don’t you?
  • Either phone or email – email doesn’t need to be lengthy.

Best of luck in building your relationships and business – you might find this short video helpful too  Please give me a call if there’s anything I can help you with.  020 8650 8015

About the Author Jackie Groundsell

Jackie Groundsell is known as the queen of women's business networking lunches - the connector. She supports thousands of small business owners through her events and lunch-time meetings

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