Networking basics – how to get started & the benefits you can glean

Networking is one of the fundamental and crucial elements of business success. It helps you meet, work and associate with likeminded businesses, helps create business opportunities, raises your profile and gives you a chance to improve your confidence and communication skills.

If you’ve never been to a networking event though, it can seem overwhelming and rather unnecessary and, if you’re already really busy; it can seem like just another ‘pointless’ drain on your time.

Do we really need networking events, now we have social media?

Networking, at its core, is all about making connections and building relationships – something we ALL need in business. Social media can be very one dimensional and anything written can be open to misinterpretation. Networking, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to really show people, face-to-face who you are, as well as illustrating your confidence, positivity and puts a face to your name. Basically, you have the chance to get yourself known and to stand out from the crowd.

Networking is about connection

People work with who they know, like and trust and, although social media gives you a chance to showcase who you are, it takes a while for people to work out whether they trust and like you. When it comes to meeting face-to-face, likeability and trust usually happen instantly; we connect and resonate with those people we like and, as a result, often warm to them – and a friendship or connection is made. You can instantly feel whether someone is positive or negative too, so you’ll not only soak up the positive atmosphere, you’ll also learn who the negative ones to avoid are too!

Networking is about opportunity

When you network in person, it gives you a chance to offer others advice, as well as receiving advice and recommendations from those you connect with. This can lead to referrals, clients, joint venture opportunities, speaking opportunities and ultimately, more sales.

How to find events

When it comes to finding events, stick to those that are local to you, as you can quickly build your profile and reputation. Searching for events online (via Google or sites like Eventbrite or Meetup), is a really good starting point, as well as social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Events tend to be listed in trade specific publications and don’t forget to follow local business groups (like Business Scene and the Federation of Small Businesses. Finally, don’t forget the cheapest and fastest way of finding local events – word of mouth! Ask local business connections for recommendations and advice on what groups are currently being run in your area.

Have a strategy

When it comes to selecting events, make sure you have a strategy. The most important thing to remember is not to go overboard – select 2 or 3 relevant events and attend them regularly, in order to raise your profile and maximise the potential to build relationships, before adding anymore to your list.

Networking events can mean some great opportunities and connections for you, if you use them right. What tips would you recommend someone attending an event for the first time – why not leave your tips in the comments box below!