Networking: like it or loathe it you gotta do it!

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You go to a networking event and the first thing you do is head over the drinks station, grab and drink and occupy that corner of the room twiddling your thumbs hoping nobody comes overs and speaks to you. Better yet, you do everything in your power to avoid eye contact with anyone that may attract unwanted conversations. You go on your phone, you stare at the pictures on the wall and you go to the toilet even though you don’t actually need it. We’ve all done it. Then a person you know walks into the room and you latch onto them and don’t leave their side until you leave. You leave convincing yourself that you just attended a great event and you made the most of your networking opportunities.

Like it or loathe it networking is very important and is a crucial part for the development of any business. Going to networking events can allow you to build and sustain relationships with perspective customers/clients, partners, stakeholders, investors and even potential staff members. Everybody has a different style of networking that works for them however we thought we would offer our top tips to get you started.

1. Choosing the right event
There are a plethora of networking events to choose from in the Midlands so choosing the right one for you is important especially if there are any associated fees to the event. If you have any memberships with organisations such as Birmingham Chambers of Commerce or West Midlands Growth Company you should seek to attend those events in the first instance. You should always do your research. Find out how many people have registered to attend that event and maybe ask for a delegate list.

2. Request a delegate list
Prior to attending any networking event you should request a copy of the delegate list from the organisers. You should then read the list and highlight any potential attendees you would like to meet. Make a mental note of three key things your potential prospects can offer you.

3. Use social media
Announce you are attending the event on social media and engage with the event organisers. When you arrive to the event check in. Take photos and tag any of the attendees. Post an event thank you to the organisers and any connections you have made. Shout as loud as you can about attending the event as somebody by notice this and may want to have a conversation with you.

4. Dress smart
We have all heard first impressions are everything and as such we go to great efforts to dress smartly for interviews. Networking events are no different. You are potentially meeting with a perspective client for the first time so you want to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward.

5. Polish your elevator pitch
When at networking events you need to be very clear and concise with what you do. The best way to do this is to have your elevator pitch on lock, ready to be received by any willing ear.

6. Ensure you have business cards
Talking to people is great but people always want something tangible in their hands. Business cards are a great way of handing all your relevant information to a perspective.

7. Don’t sell
Networking events are not platforms for sales pitches but more so building relationships. The focus should be building a network of people that will result in a long lasting relationship. If this is done correctly then there will be future opportunities for you to sell your service or product.

8. Reveal personal things
People like people. Revealing personal things about yourself is one of the best ways to show you are a real person (not saying you’re an alien or anything). Try and find an opportunity to slip in the conversation something about your spouse, children, parents or siblings or maybe an activity or sport you enjoy!

9. Follow up
Always follow up on any connections made. This is usually via an email just letting them know it was nice to meet them containing a brief outline of what you do. At this stage feel free to add them to your CRM system and mailing list.

10. Don’t spam
Whatever you do don’t spam mail your connections. Only send what you feel is relevant.

Now go and network!

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