Networking is an underutilized skill that many people overlook when working on their business or social enterprise. The power of a strong network is invaluable; it can attract business effortlessly and allow you to build great connections.
When you start networking, you may find it a little daunting. You may be wondering ‘where do I go to meet people?’ ‘How do I strike up a conversation?’
Here’s some answers to some commonly asked questions about networking.
Which networks should I join?
Deciding on which networks to join is your first step. First, draw a mind-map of your business and it’s audience demographics. What geographical area(s) do you serve? What are the interests of those you are hoping to attract to your business? Then make a list of local groups. Try Meetup or Eventbrite to search for events in your area. Can’t find one? Then why not create one!
How do I introduce myself at a networking event?
It’s easy to feel intimidated at networking events when you first start out. However, with a bit of practice, you’ll soon feel much more confident when approaching strangers and talking to them about your business.
Think about how you can describe your social enterprise in a few short sentences. Start with why you set up your social enterprise. Then describe who you’re helping, and what your business does. For example:
‘I’m really passionate about children developing the skills to build their mental health, so I set up my enterprise last year. We work with schools all over the country and run emotional wellbeing training and workshops.”
Once other people can see your passion and your enthusiasm for your business, they’re more likely to be attracted towards it. Enthusiasm is a contagious quality, and by focusing on why you’re at the networking event, you’re much less likely to suffer from any first-time nerves.
What’s the best way to make the most of a networking event?
The best way to make the most of a networking event is to be prepared. Take as many notes as you can about the meetup, who is likely to be there, and it’s location. Prepare business cards in advance, and practice introducing yourself and your business.
When you arrive, try joining a group rather than a couple of people. If you find you are with one person for too long and would like to chat to more people, excuse yourself to get a drink or just let them know politely that it’s been lovely talking to them and you’re going to continue to mingle.
How much should I network?
How much you network depends on the individual. If you have the time, you could commit to one or two networking events a week; for others it may be once a month.
Remember to strike the balance right. A good rule of thumb is to be consistent, and start small - don’t over commit yourself to lots of different networking groups. Stick to the ones you know and like and you’ll be sure to become a confident, successful networker.