Business networking is starting to be seen as one of the most effective ways of generating new business for companies.
It is not normally expensive, but it can be quite time consuming. It is also daunting for the less extrovert doing it for the first time. However, even the most shrinking violet will gain confidence and effectiveness with practice.
There are many different types of networking events and different times of day in which they happen. Most will let you try them out once or twice for a small fee. After that, you will need to pay for full membership. This will be some combination of an annual fee and a fee per meeting. Once you have attended a few, chose the ones where you are most comfortable and have had the most success.
Before setting out to an event you should make sure that you have your 'elevator pitch' - a short (approx. 30 seconds) overview of your business, that you can trot out when asked: “what do you do?”. It is best to have a few variations so that you do not say exactly the same thing every time, and so start to sound like a speak-your-weight machine.
You should, of course, take a plentiful supply of business cards, and a pen. You should also have some paper to take notes.
At the meeting, remember everyone is there to network, so people generally do not mind you butting in, as long as you are not too pushy. If they seem very intense, try another group. Remember also that at most networking meetings everyone is there to sell, very few to buy, so do not expect to come away with orders every time.
The people there will be happy to hear about you, but will also want the opportunity to have their own say as well. Do not try to monopolise the conversation.
Try to make what you say original and interesting. Try also to smile and to be cheerful and enthusiastic about what you do. People respond positively to someone who is themselves positive. Also listen carefully to what the others tell you. People appreciate a good listener.
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