..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.
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:
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.
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?
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
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