In the build up to the launch of my make-up brand Rockalily, I have been networking my little socks off.
This is a picture (supplied with permission from Miss Ballooniverse) of me meeting the fabulous Miss Ballooniverse at a breakfast networking group in Fleet Street. I must admit I found it a struggle to get there for 8am, but was well worth it.
In addition to running my own networking group, Wonderful Women: Minding Our Own Business, I attend a variety of networking sessions, particularly those aimed at women. I have found the standard varies quite a bit, and I have been to free and paid for events. It got me thinking about why we/I network, and how we can make the most of it.
My top 5 tips to get the most out of networking:
- Consider why it is you're networking. Are you looking for potential customers? Are you looking to meet other businesses to collaborate with? Do you need a new supplier or retailer? Are you looking to meet like-minded people? Are you looking to get inspired or motivated? You may have a mixture of reasons why you want to network, but relecting on your reasons can help you decide which events to attend.
- Look the part. People will always judge you and your business on first impressions - we can't help it! This won't mean the same for all people, and it may not even mean the same for different events. What message do you want give about your brand and who you are? Do you want to be memorable, to appear trustworthy or that you fit into the corporate world?
- Networking means that you are hoping to establish connections with other people or businesses. This does mean that you will have to talk to strangers, so you may want to prepare a few conversation starters. Some people find this very daunting, but don't worry, everyone else is as nervous as you. You can always start with asking questions about their business - everyone will be more than happy to tell you! Have your basic elevator pitch ready in your mind, and consider some of the questions that you may get asked.
- Leave your judgements at the door. Try not to presume too much about other people or speakers. Someone may not look like the type of person worth connecting to, but they may well be the best friend of someone who is. I have listened to some great speakers, and some not so great ones, and sometimes they have surprised me.
- Invest in a quality business card. I know that in theory it shouldn't really matter, but if you're a design company (for example) and you hand me a generic looking business card on rough paper, I won't think much of your design skills. Try to make your card reflect you and/or your business so that they can use it as an aide-memoire. They may talk to lots of people and you don't want them to forget what you do!