Like any oher form of business promotion, Networking is as much about what you put into it as what you get out of it. Gleaned from many years of attending some truly shocking events and some totally brilliant ones, here’s a few pointers worth considering:
1. Don’t Rush It – Networking is not about making instant returns; you’re not going to turn up at your first event and get lucky. It’s all about building relationships, getting to know people and building trust. There’s more to it than pitching and dealing, plugging and promoting.
2. Communication – Being a good communicator helps and regularly attending a networking event helps you hone that vital business skill and improves your effectiveness. A lot of people are nervous at first but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you find your confidence.
3. Decide What You Want – Try out different networking groups; some are regular and structured, some are more informal. Some require membership and a substantial commitment in time and money, while others allow a pay-as-you-go approach and accept that there are times when you may not be able to get along to the event.
4. The Social Element – For sole traders and micro businesses, the network meeting might be the only personal contact they have in the working day and many people simply enjoy the social aspect of the event. Be wary of thinking they have nothing to offer you, you never know who they might be talking to next.
5. Be Interested In Others – While it’s good practice to take enough business cards with you to a networking meeting, be wary of those who arrive armed with enough promotional literature to paper the venue. They probably have a specific agenda and it’s unlikely to involve asking you about your business.
6. The Elevator Pitch – If you attend an event where you get the chance to stand up for a minute or two and talk about what you do, don’t blow it by talking for too long or by not preparing your elevator pitch and rehersing it. No one appreciates being lectured by a self-obsessed bore and you’ll kick yourself if you just wing it and forget to mention something crucial.
7. Regular is Best – Whether you go weekly, fortnightly or monthly, try and find a group that you can become a regular at, people will trust you more and are more likely to recommend you to others. Remember that everyone at the event will have other networks and making the right impression could well open doors you weren’t even knocking on.
8. Reap The Rewards – If the event produces a delegate list, don’t fall into the trap of rushing back to the office and firing off emails to everyone on it. Be selective, follow up conversations you’ve had with a polite thank you and act on what you’ve promised to do. Above all, enjoy it, don’t go with the sole intention of getting something out of it, give it time, work at being a good networker and the benefits will soon manifest themselves.