Networking is a bit like Marmite, isn’t it? Some people absolutely hate it, some find it boring, others are too shy. I, on the other hand, LOVE it. I have a passion for people, almost to the point of infatuation, and for hearing their stories, business or otherwise.
When I first established Drew I had ZERO clients and no idea how to successfully run a business. Any advice was so useful, especially in the early days. My first networking lunch, 12 years ago, was a Business Junction event. I met several fantastic people, two of which remain clients and dear friends today: Sinead Hasson of Hasson Associates and Gavin Ricketts of Napoleon Creative. I have also met Drew suppliers like Jez from Webstars, who has supported—and ultimately helped me grow—my business.
Over the years, networking has become an essential part of my business growth strategy. The people I’ve met have gone on to advise me on business challenges (let’s face it, we all have them), become clients, be suppliers and most surprisingly, become my friends.
I learned quite quickly that the ‘hard sell’ is a real networking turn off. But there are other strategies you can use to meet people who will be helpful to your business—while actually enjoying yourself:
1. Listen. Listen like you’ve never listened before. Listening carefully builds relationships and trust, which are the two essential ingredients to any partnership. Try to listen more than talk.
2. Keep eye contact. There is nothing more offputting than people looking over your shoulder when you’re having a conversation. You’ll more than likely be at the event for over an hour, there’s plenty of time to say ‘hello’ to others, rather than constantly looking over someone’s shoulder.
3. Clear your mind. Ensure that you shake off any negativity from your day-to-day before you set foot at that event. Positivity is key. You are there to socialise, engage, meet, form, and develop new relationships, after all.
4. Don’t disregard anyone. You’ll often meet competitors, but don’t be put off. You never know who that person is connected to, or whether your business offers a different service to theirs. Sharing certain information, contacts, and supplier recommendations marks you as confident and generous—and sometimes, further down the line, rewarded with bigger projects where you are ultimately stronger together.
5. Share contact details. Do try and remember to distribute, as well collect business cards. It’s only polite to drop people a line following the event, too. A personal email can kickstart real relationships and keeps you front of mind. Following and engaging on social media channels is also a good idea.
6. Try not to drink too much. Being intoxicated lowers boundaries (the wrong ones) and can make a negative impression (speaking from experience).
7. The drip drip effect. Remember that making connections whilst networking is described as the ‘drip drip’ effect, i.e. the more you meet someone (email, social media, face-to-face, etc) the deeper your connection will be and the more likely that you’ll end up working together in some capacity.
My top networking events:
Over the (many) years, I’ve discovered some favourite networking events:
- IoD (Institute of Directors): If you’re a member of the IoD advanced, the circle events are brilliant. Learning and networking all in one room. I wrote about the IoD events previously in my blog “5 things I’ve loved this year so far”.
- Urbano: A really relaxed, yet business focused atmosphere, a rare breed. Mark Herring, founder and networker extraordinaire, will ensure you talk to the right people. Breakfast, lunch or evening this is always a successful and worthwhile event.
- Business Junction: My first ever event holds a firm place in my heart for networking for beginners. Great people in a relaxed atmosphere.
If you’d like to join me at an Urbano event, as well as meet the infamous Mark Herring, please do drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do feel free to share my post.