Business networking hints for newcomers – In a nutshell, expert advice from Richard Carpenter from Enterprise Assist LTDClick here to view the transcript
It’s probably sensible to develop a mixture of face-to-face and online networking, but let’s focus on the face-to-face networking.
It might be best to understand why you have, or want, to network?
Perhaps it’s for your career or for business. It might be to find customers, suppliers, introduces, get advice or discover innovative ideas, or it could be to just help alleviate the loneliness of running an organisation by yourself.
– and once the reasons are known decide where you are actually going to network. Will it be locally, regionally, nationally or internationally? Not only will you need to budget your monetary costs, but your time as well.
So which events might you choose? There are many business clubs and organisations to consider. Some are free, some are fee paying.
In addition to established clubs, consider seminars, openings, fares, exhibitions as well as charity and sporting events. These can all be very useful for expanding your network. Try as many as you can, and ask other net-workers which ones they favor.
So now you’ve chosen an event – what next? Well, actually turning up is useful! If you’re nervous about walking into a room full of strangers and facing that awkward “Who shall I talk to?” moment, arrive 15 to 30 minutes early. The organisers, even if they’re not quite ready, will be delighted that at least one person has turned up and, if you’re friendly and helpful, you’ll often find them introducing you to the other attendees as they arrive. This really helps break the ice. it’s far easier than trying to cut in to a pair, or group, of people already deep in conversation.
Try to have a flowing, natural sounding, story about what you do and what you’re looking for. Identify the serial networkers; these are people who network frequently and have a large number of connections. They are often great allies and introduces.
When you are given a business card try to treat it with respect. Don’t just stuff it in your bag or pocket. If someone has caught your attention and you want to follow up; I’ve found putting a little fold on at least one corner of the card makes it easier for it to be distinguished from the others when you are sorting them later. I often explain why I’ve done that to those whose card I’ve corner-folded.
– and remember; try not to sell. People buy people, so be friendly, yet professional. Oh, and make sure you follow up – before life interrupts your best intentions.