As a member of the local business community, it is important to get out and about once in a while and meet your fellow business owners. One of the best ways to do this is to attend local business networking events but like anything in business, it is best to know what you are doing before you dive in!
So here are my top 10 tips for networking:
1. Make sure you have a solid elevator pitch - You will probably be asked to stand up in front of everyone at the event and tell them who you are and what you do
2. Research the event to find out if it has a specific theme - is it an education-based event, is it speed networking, do you need to prepare anything specific?
3. Arrive early - being one of the first there means people will introduce themselves to you as they arrive, and you are more likely to be in the centre of the group rather than the person standing awkwardly at the edge of the room pretending to read an email to look busy
4. Plan to leave late - if at all possible, make sure you don't have to rush off at the end as this is when some of the best conversations happen. You have just spent an hour or two with this group of people, you should now know who you want to catch up with so go grab them and see if they can hang around for a more in-depth catch-up
5. Dress to impress - you don't have to wear a suit but wear what you would to a meeting with a new client as that might be exactly what this is
6. Have plenty of business cards with you - if you don't have business cards, get some made up before the event
7. Follow up the next business day at the latest - if you want to carry on the conversation drop the person an email saying it was great to meet you, connect with them on LinkedIn or even better get a date for a follow-up meeting in the diary before you even leave the event
8. If you are planning to visit a lot of networking groups then you should invest in your own name badge - as a visitor to these groups, you will normally get a hastily written out sticky label that will fall off three minutes after you arrive. Invest a few dollars in getting your own badge made and it helps you to stand out as an experienced networker
9. Don't write off a group based on one bad experience - give it at least one more try, it could just have been an off week for that group. If it lets you down three times, then probably best to move on.
10. You get what you pay for, keep that in mind - A free evening networking event that offers a complimentary drink will attract a very different crowd to a paid for breakfast event. If people are willing to pay money and attend a 7am event they are more likely to be serious about networking than the person who fancies a free wine after work
Also, if you find yourself struggling to choose the right group for you check out our handy infographic.