Ten top tips to help you get the most out of networking

1. There are lots of different networking groups in the area – each one with a different format and style. Try them all and see which suits you best. I set up Coffee and Connect in my favourite format – everyone does a one minute introduction so that we all know what we do and then we have lots of time to circulate and chat to specific people in the open networking session after the introductions.

2. Equally as important as the meeting structure is the “feel” of the event and whether you feel comfortable there. Think about whether you fit in with people that attend. I always say that Coffee and Connect regulars are warm, friendly and especially welcoming towards new visitors – we don’t do cliques. We are also serious and professional about our businesses but never pushy.

3.  When you find a group that you like and that works for your business you need to attend regularly. People take time to get to know you and remember what you do – so get those meeting dates in your diary for the rest of the year now.

4. One of the fundamental things to understand about successful business networking is that the people that get the most out are those that put the most in, so focus on what you can do for other people not what they can do for you.

5. There are two sides to networking: a) establishing better relationships with people you already know and b) meeting new people. Make sure you do both in equal measures throughout the year.

6. If you are new to networking or are visiting a group you haven’t been to before the best place to start is at the coffee / tea table. The easiest way to get a conversation going is to ask someone if they have been to this meeting before, done any other networking, what are their favourite groups etc? Remember – everyone is there to meet new people and they will want to talk to you.

7. Be prepared. Someone is bound to ask what you do. Try and avoid giving either a one word answer or a long rambling speech. You want a couple of sentences that say something about you and your business and which is easy to understand and remember.

8. The one minute. I love this – finding out about everyone else’s businesses. Who knew there were so many interesting people / businesses in the room? But you have to do your own one minute intro too. Simple: Your name, your business name, your couple of sentences (see 7 above) and if there is time then add an example of a recent project or give us a useful tip.

9. Business Cards … dispense with extreme caution! Please don’t just walk round the room giving them out to everyone.

10. Finally and most importantly; stop and think for a moment about what you would look for in other businesses / people whose services you might want to use. From my conversations with other business networkers I know that most of us like to work with people with a positive attitude; so a smile and enthusiasm for what you do goes long way. We also like to work with people who demonstrate total competency and professionalism in their field so when people ask about what you do pass on advice, tell them about a specific very small detail related to the way you work, mention a project you have worked on recently  … so they go away with the impression that you really know what you are talking about.


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