If the idea of networking fills you with dread and causes you to break out in a cold sweat, then you are not alone! For many business owners, networking is often seen as a necessary evil and something to just ‘get done’ but in truth, it can be an effective way to look for new clients, discover potential partnerships, and even seek advice from fellow founders. With the right prep and plan business networking can even be fun. We’ll guide you through our top tips on all things ‘networking’, how to get the most out of opportunities, and how to find events near you.

What is networking and why is it important?

In a nutshell, networking is all about building relationships with other professionals, often in your industry or related field. It can take various forms including industry events, joining professional associations, connecting on social media and attending virtual networking events. Although speaking to a room full of strangers is daunting it could be your chance to make important connections, seek valuable advice and ultimately take your business or career to the next level.

How important is networking for small businesses?

When you’re starting out, the connections you make with other professionals can be invaluable. Relationships you form at events could lead to new business opportunities, referrals or partnerships. As well as helping you expand your reach, being part of a community is the perfect place to help you gain knowledge and insight and ask for advice.

How do I get better at networking?

You know what they say, practice makes perfect! The more events you go to, the more relaxed and confident you’ll feel.

What are your top tips for networking successfully?

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first timer, here are our top tips for networking successfully…

  1. Set yourself some goals: In order to get the most out of any networking opportunity, whether it’s an event, a one-to-one or on social media, focus on some clear goals. You don’t need to be closing deals with everyone you speak to, but you may want to secure a meeting, speak to an industry expert or get an email address. If you’re off to an event, aim to speak to 10 people or get 5 business cards and make a list of specific questions you’d like to ask.
  2. Preparation is key: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Now you’ve set yourself some goals, come up with a game plan. Hone your pitch and research your fellow attendees. Doing the groundwork will give you a strategy to stick to and boost your confidence.
  3. Put yourself out there: Speaking to new people is daunting even for the most confident networker but remember why you are networking. Try and connect with as many new people as you can and ensure the experience is worthwhile. Use your social channels to broadcast your attendance at events, book in meetings and invite others along.
  4. Try different events: Get yourself to as many events as you can, from industry talks to virtual networking and even speed-networking, there are plenty to choose from. Be open-minded and see what works best for you.

Where can I find networking events near me?

Often, you’ll hear about networking events through word of mouth but when you’re first starting out, platforms like Eventbrite are great and often promote plenty of free events. Look up your local chamber of commerce or council, as they will often run local networking group events. Finally, utilise your social media. LinkedIn and Facebook are a great way to find professional events near you and it’s always worth asking your connections for recommendations of networking events they’ve attended and found useful.