Networking often feels like a necessary evil when it comes to running your own business. I know of people who swear by it and others who never bother. I really didn’t enjoy it when I started out, and still find it hard now, but it’s possible that I’m approaching it the wrong way. There are all manner of networking groups out there, and I’m not going to list them all, but as I am now heading up a group on behalf of the Federation of Small Businesses, I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of the best tips I’ve come across.
Some of them may seem obvious, but if you’re uncomfortable with the thought of going to your first (or 40th!) event, it may be good to be prepared.
Before You Go
- Find out what’s going on in your local area. As well as general groups, there may be specialist events for people in your sector, or your target audience’s sector. Book onto the ones that look promising.
- Find out exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. If it’s a breakfast event or straight after work, plan to allow for traffic so you arrive early and unflustered. You may even lay out your clothes the night before, and make sure you’ve got your sat nav ready.
- Make sure you’ve got plenty of business cards, change for parking or coffee and anything else you might need. Check the invite again to see if there are any particular requirements.
- Check the list of other attendees, if it’s available. Many networking groups circulate these in advance or provide it online. It gives you the chance to see if there’s anyone you’d like to meet or could be a good connection, or if there’s any competitors in attendance. Best to be prepared!
- Some people use a networking chart, where they map out who they’ll speak to and what they want their outcomes to be. If you think this would help, download one before you go.