Top Tips for Networking

Networking will identify new business opportunities and allow you to share ideas, experience and good practice. For new start ups it can also be a terrific way to meet influential role models, combat isolation, make contracts, increase confidence and build long term relationships. The simple tips below should help you make the most of your time and contacts when networking.

Advance preparation

Knowledge is a great confidence booster, so acquire as much as you can in advance. Try to get an advance guest list and check websites to familiarise yourself with names and faces. Find out whether the event you wish to attend is formal or informal event and dress appropriately.

People will inevitably ask what you do, so prepare a snappy and memorable answer. What is so good about your company? Make sure you can sum it up in a couple of sentences. Be factual, make it memorable and don’t boast.

Be clear how the event can help you. Perhaps set specific targets, such as gaining three good contacts, or finding a mentor. Maybe you simply want an introduction to a particular business person.

Ensure you have a good supply of up to date, well presented business cards. (Nothing looks more unprofessional than jotting down contacts on scraps of paper.) Take your business brochure etc if appropriate. Pen and notebook are also essential!

On arrival

Arrive on time and introduce yourself to the organiser who should then start introducing you to others. Be proactive though – you may need to simply launch yourself in! Give a good impression by dressing smartly – even at informal events – and try to appear confident. Make sure you wear any name given (on the right side/lapel, so it is seen when you shake hands.)

Getting going

You may feel happier listening rather than talking at first. Don’t make assumptions about the people you meet and do pay attention to what people say.

When you feel more confident talk briefly and effectively - aim for quietly assertive. Ask open ended questions, which require more than a yes or no answer, so the conversation starts flowing. Don’t monopolise a particular person; try to speak to as many people as possible and remember names and collect relevant business cards. (Write vital snippets of information on the back to help you later.) Offer your own card to those who ask for them.

Good networking

Networking is not about selling – it’s about establishing rapport and building relationships. When starting out you will probably focus on the benefits of expanding your own network without thinking how you could help others. This is understandable but mistaken. If there is something you can do for someone then do it. When someone offers information and contacts, try to do the same back. And if you say you will do something make sure you follow it through.

If you gain business or referrals at some future point it is polite to contact and thank the person who initiated it. If you are offered advice, consider it carefully.

Don’t try to be someone you are not. Be yourself, keep relaxed, don’t drink too much and enjoy yourself. If you are confident about your business and what makes it stand out this will come across as long as you don’t over -exaggerate, or over promise.

Be selective about which networking events you attend. Go to the ones you enjoy and the ones that are most useful. Good luck.


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