So, first of all, what is networking? The answer: It is business done in a sociable way.
In this blog I will talk you through the basics of clever networking, covering everything from dress code to the best time to make business connections.
1. What sort of networking do I need to do?
This is the big question. It will depend on what you are selling, if it is a consumer-facing product, a bigger audience is best: if it is a service - smaller groups are better so that you can explain your propositon.
2. What time of day is best to network?
Breakfast meetings are great. it is the start of the day and does not interrupt your work schedule. For those of you with kids and school runs to consider, look at half term and holidays - make the most of these opportunities to attend. Lunchtimes are also becoming increasingly popular. Evening events tend to be partially social. There will be more of a focus on having a drink and unwinding after the work day. Weekends should be family time.
3. How do I meet the right people?
This is important. In order for networking to be effective, you need to get face time with the right sort of people for your service or product. Guest lists are really useful for this. Try and get hold of the attendee list before you turn up and make a hitlist of the people you want to try and talk to. After the event, make sure you follow good contacts up straight away and arrange to meet for a coffee to get to know the other person better. Remember, it may take time to find the right group for you. Don't give up after one dud meeting.
4. What do I wear?
Look the part. Business suits are the norm but if that is not your 'uniform' then wear what is appropriate. Clean shoes make a good impression and don't bring your business leaflets to the meeting in a carrier bag! Looking the part will help with your confidence as well as making sure you don't stand out like a sore thumb.
5. Are business cards important?
There is a lot of snobbery over business cards. The quality matters and make sure your card says what you do. If you are a one-man-band, consider adding your photo - it is your business passport. After an event, make sure you put all the cards you've received into an envelope with the name and date of the event. This will help you remember who's who. Top tip: To people who matter give two cards - one to keep, one to pass on. You don't want to lose a good contact - so invest well.
I hope this helps with all your networking endeavours.
Founder of SHEplc. Partner in Ladies Who Latte and Berkshire Chairman of the FSB.