Done properly, networking can be a great way to advertise you and your business
Networking is a great way to get you and your business known in the local area. It’s also a relatively cheap way to advertise too which is good because the cost to start a small business can be high and you will need to be fairly tight with the money until the customers start rolling in.
However, don’t think that networking is just turning up, eating the snacks, having a few glasses of wine and then leaving. Here are a few things to keep in mind when networking.
Always take more than you think you’ll need. Get an idea from the organizers of how many people they expect and then take about 1.5 to 2 times that amount. I usually leave small stashes in various different suit pockets and then take sufficient to over the event too; that way I’m well covered.
Volunteer for roles in network groups you belong to. It’s a great way to get to know people quickly, plus new members of the group see you as a leader and therefore someone they want to know. If you’re shy by nature it’s also a great excuse to start talking to someone you have an ‘in’.
Ask others about themselves and their business; people love to talk about themselves and oddly it makes them think more highly of you if they’ve spent all the time talking about themselves! Also, ask questions of the speaker at an event; this also makes you look like one of the leaders.
Be a good listener
Goes with the point above; if you’re going to ask sensible questions you need to listen and show you’ve been listening.
Don’t stand in the corner with a bunch of people you know, keep moving around the room to meet new people. Spend 5-10 minutes with each group then politely excuse yourself and move on again. At the end of the event if there’s someone you want to meet up with in the future, make a point of finding them, saying goodbye and suggesting you meet up again soon. They’ll be impressed that you made the effort.
Dress to impress
No matter what your business (or how early the networking event is in the morning!) there’s no excuse for turning up looking slovenly or untidy. Being smartly dressed doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit, just make sure that you dress the part for your type of business. Never forget that you’re there to advertise your business and people will make assumptions (rightly or wrongly) about your business from how you dress.
Do this discretely once you’ve moved on from each group as it will help you remember them in the future. Many people write notes on the back of someone’s business card which is fine but don’t do it in front of them as they might see that as disrespectful. Before you go to the next event you can then check through your notes and impress people with your amazing levels of recall!