Every network group is different and you need to find the right one that works for you. I enjoy attending events that let you be yourself, have structure but are not too strict. I find the ones that have strict rules to be uncomfortable, as I’m too nervous to be myself.
When I set my business up I found the best way to promote my business was to attend network events.
I remember the first time I went networking. I turned up and the room was filled up with about 60 businessmen! All I wanted to do was turn around and walk out. I obviously looked nervous as the organiser of the event explained to just go up and talk to people. Sounded so simple. I took a deep breath and went to the nearest group. They were busy chatting but when I approached they all turned and smiled. Phew! That was I all needed.
After attending several events, I decided to set up my own group (Thurrock Network Group), as there wasn’t one local to me. I wanted my meetings to be fairly relaxed and informal. The group has been running for 7 years and there’s always great feedback, which is good to hear. I will never forget that moment of my first meeting so when I see new people come to my group, I make sure they are put at ease.
Here are my 5 networking tips:
There’s nothing worse than walking into a room late when everyone is in full swing of networking. It’s not too bad if the group is informal and people are standing around chatting as you may be able to sneak in unnoticed, but if it’s a meeting where everyone is seated this can be unsettling. I for one would hate this so I always try to get there early. Obviously, if there are problems with traffic then it can’t be helped.
Get there on time and you’ll be able to relax, get a drink and get yourself sorted. You don’t want to be the one that turns up late all flustered. If you need to register, make sure you have done so before you arrive.
Smile and be confident
Even if you are nervous – smile! It goes a long way and you look friendly. Also, think about your body language. You are your business so be mindful of how you will be perceived by others. Don’t stand with your arms crossed, as you will not look approachable. Even if you are feeling nervous, do your best at creating a positive vibe. It does get easier!
Be prepared and make sure you have plenty of business cards to hand. You never know who or where your next customer will be.
Make sure your business card is professional and on brand with all the relevant contact details on it.
As soon as people leave that room, they’ll go through the cards collected so if you haven’t got one, then you’ve missed a big chance of making a connection with a potential customer.
Show an interest in other people and listen to what they have to say. Don’t just talk at people and be all “salesy”. Networking is a two-way conversation. I find it annoying when someone comes up to me and talks at me, they’ve said what they want and then before I get a chance to say what I do, they’ve moved onto the next person. It may sound straightforward, but it’s just the basics of having a conversation!
Your elevator pitch is so important as it explains what you do and can offer in a short, succinct way. Make sure you’ve rehearsed it a couple of times before you arrive at the event. Try and make your pitch memorable, it will get you noticed. We’ve had people do a rhyme, have a funny strapline or even do a little dance!
A good elevator pitch will explain what your business is, your goals and will have a call to action. Don’t say the same thing every time, mix it up a little bit and remember to say your name and business name at the end. Be confident and talk passionately about what you do.
One thing to remember is that networking takes time to build relationships.
You will never go to a network meeting and get work from people that don’t know you. It takes time to build the trust. Once people get to know you, then you will start to see results. If you don’t get business straight away, don’t get disheartened as you are still promoting your business.
A lot of my business has come from referrals and networking. It isn’t for everyone but for me it’s been key to getting my name out there.
If you are in the Thurrock area then feel free to come along to one of our meetings. For more details have a look at our website