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Guest Blog: Networking for beginners

The Hub News Team | 3.12.15 | General, Networking

KIM_headshotSome people are just serial networkers, they enjoy being out and chatting to new people. Others find the process more difficult but it's definitely worth persevering (or starting!).

The benefits of networking are well documented - and it's not just to generate business. You might learn about what's happening in the local area, find a speaking opportunity, or start developing a long term business relationship. Networking meetings are great places to raise your profile, meet like-minded people who share the same issues and you might just
get some free advice.

It is true that people do business with people they like and networking is a great opportunity to make an impression and meet key decision makers and influencers. And if you don't get out and meet new people how are they going to really get to know you? 

But are all networking meetings the same? No, definitely not, there are different groups for different people. You have to experiment and find three or four key groups that really work for you. Some people don't enjoy the strong sales and referrals groups but others find this type of networking brings in lots of leads and new business. 

Once you've researched what groups exist and who runs them, don't feel under pressure to join immediately, most good networking groups will allow you to attend one or two meetings and get a feel for how things work and who attends. 

So once you've researched what groups are in your area and sector here are some top tips to get the most out of your networking:

1. Turn up on time, check out where the group meets and if it says 7.00 for 7.30am don't rush in at 7.30am or arrive late as it will just make you flustered. Don't forget some groups change venues each time. 

2. Don't stick to only talking to people you know, make an effort to try to talk to two or three new people at each meeting. 

3. Start up a conversation at the coffee or buffet table about the food or drinks and then say 'Shall we stand over here' or find a loner and say 'These meetings can be a bit daunting is this your first time?' 

4. Good opening conversations are 'How long have you been a member of this group?', 'How has your week been?' 'What line of business are you in' or just smile and say hello. 

5. Once talking, keep the person engaged by playing equal parts listener and talking, people love to talk about their business. 

6. Don't linger too long with any one fellow networker. If you get stuck make your excuses whether it's a coffee/loo break or 'Excuse me I just need to catch up with someone I met last time.' 

7. Don't thrust your business card into everyone's hands at the first opportunity, just pick two or three people who you can help or you think can help you and make sure you always follow up after a meeting. 

8. Make sure you have business cards and any literature to hand in case someone is interested or you may be allowed to display leaflets in a central area.

9. Never dominate a meeting! If you are invited to say who you are and what you do stick to something short and memorable. Invite people to speak to you later or if you want to say more, offer to speak at a future event. Don't become  a networking bore.

10. Finally relax and enjoy it, the more you get to know people the easier it will be so stick at it and you could well be reaping the rewards! 

Kim Gilmour is the Director of Shropshire-based Connect Consultancy

If you'd like to contribute a guest blog to the Marches Growth Hub, please send it to Blogs should be no more than 400 words, accompanied with a photo and short biography of the author. The guest blog is a chance to share knowledge and expertise among the Marches business community and therefore commercial-style blogs will not be considered for publication. 
The Marches Growth Hub does not endorse any opinions, services or products featured in the guest blog. 


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