In the age of digital technology it would be easy to forget that networking on a face-to-face basis is still incredibly popular. In fact there are a myriad of business events taking place every day, introducing likeminded people via shared interests and similar skillsets. Meetups have moved on somewhat since the days of the soggy bacon roll and it’s all about networking more efficiently.
Find events to suit you – Your first step is to check out what’s going on locally; both dedicated networking sites and the local press list upcoming events. Your local Chamber of Commerce will also run events, some of which are open to non-members. Many meetups have a broad attendance, with individuals from both private and public sector organisations, across a variety of industries. Or opt for a specialist networking event, such as one that focusses purely on tech or a women’s only gathering. And if you’re still stumped, ask your colleagues and contacts to recommend some local get-togethers.
Go prepared – Go armed with a healthy stash of business cards to swap with likeminded attendees. And do your research on the event speakers and key personnel which will help with small talk. Talking of which, banish awkward silences by having a few key questions (and answers of course) up your sleeve. Make notes on the back of gathered business cards if necessary.
Act on those business cards – Don’t leave those business cards in your pocket gathering dust, put them to good use by following up on introductions. Start off by sending a ‘great to meet you’ email and include any links or information pertinent to your initial meeting. Mention that you’d like to connect on LinkedIn, which is the largest business orientated networking site on earth! And finally, ask which upcoming events they’re attending, so you can continue to grow your business relationship, as well as meeting new connections.
It’s not all sell, sell, sell – Whilst it’s great to mention what you do, it’s not good business practice to overwhelm your new buddies with an all-out sales pitch. Make it much more subtle, for example, take a look at their website and make one suggestion at something they could improve/try, and offer your advice if they want to bounce any ideas around.
Get ready for your next networking event – New opportunities pop up all the time and it’s important to learn from past events to make future forays more fruitful. If previous meetups were too sales orientated or full of irrelevant industries, then switch venues. And utilise your newly formed relationships to share tips, swap opportunities and grow networks. After all, networking for business is a real skill which can be perfected with plenty of practice.
Written by Julie Bowman @ Nwes