If networking fills you with dread and spending your Thursday morning at the dentist is more appealing than chatting to potential clients, you aren’t alone. For many of us, networking can be a daunting task and the idea of making small talk with strangers can be intimidating at the least, terrifying for many. However, with breakfast meetings, women only lunches and evening drinks, networking doesn’t have to be painful, but something you can enjoy and dare we say it, look forward to. Read on for more tips on how to make the most from networking opportunities.
Members of the Face for Business team are often spotted at The Business Network Chester, Skelmersdale Ambassador Network and Burscough Business Network events which are as useful as they are welcoming. Networking has not only helped us to secure clients looking for a call answering service, but they have been a fantastic way to meet other businesses, raise our profile, learn new skills and find suppliers.
Chloe Leibowitz, a Life Coach, commented, “If you approach networking as just a way of getting new business, you're more than likely to be disappointed. But as someone who works alone, it's been great to get out and meet people. I have had some brilliant conversations, made good connections, found clients and I am starting to see recommendations because people know and trust me”.
Are you tempted to dip your toes in the networking waters?
If you are still not confident enough to take the plunge, we have some tips that we hope will get you in the zone...
1. Do your research
It can be easy to get carried away and go to every event on offer, but will this actually tie-in with your business objectives? Research groups that are relevant to you and your industry, try them out and when you find the right ones, schedule them into your diary and make them part of your marketing mix. If you aren’t sure where to start, the FSB organises events, dinners and social gatherings across the country that are the perfect starting point for those new to networking.
2. Business cards
As social media takes over the world, you might think the simple business card is redundant, but in a room of 30 people you won’t remember every Twitter handle and neither will they. Don’t spend a fortune, but make sure your cards look professional, are easy to read, correctly spelt and have them to hand when attending an event.
3. Know who is in charge
Networking events, like those we attend at F2N, are often booked online so introducing yourself to the organiser when you arrive can be a good idea. As well as putting a face to a name, they can introduce you to other attendees and you never know, if you get on well they may ask you to be a speaker at a future event.
4. Know your business
First impressions count so be confident about introducing yourself to other people. This will not only prevent you from rambling but will also give you an air of confidence and professionalism, something other business people will like. See if you can access a guest list or table plan prior to attending and then try and seek out those who you would like to chat with.
5. Buddy up
Attending events with a colleague or friend can be really helpful, but remember to use most of your time getting to know new people and making connections.
Amanda Ayres, The Business Girls Network, added, “People buy from people, so if you go to a networking event once, it probably won't work. Networking needs to part of your marketing plan and you need to be consistent over a period of time. As well as meeting like-minded people and finding new clients, it is a great way to find collaboration opportunities too.”
6. Be interested and interesting
Networking is all about building relationships and to do this you need to not only be interesting to talk to but interested in what other people have to say. Don’t make the conversation all about you, find out what other attendees do and you will find they’ll remember you for this approach as well as your skills
7. Go and learn
Another benefit of networking events is that they are an excellent opportunity to learn. Talks, workshops, seminars and round table discussions are all on offer and give access to advice and experts.
Jay-Anne Dingwall, a Financial Planner for Asset Harbour, further commented, “I love, love, love networking. Be open and positive to opportunities and be patient, it won't be quick but it will be worth it. Good things are worth waiting for and often these opportunities hold more substance!”
8. Follow up
After an event, get in touch with the people you met, either via email or send a LinkedIn invitation if you don’t have a business card. Remember networking isn’t just about meeting contacts for the first time, you need to build and nurture these relationships and that way you will reap the rewards.
Finally, smile, relax and enjoy the networking ride because you never know who you might meet and what might happen along the way, and remember "someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go, if you're the someone ready to be found!" (Lyrics from La La Land).