If you run a small business, you will know how important it is to get your message out there about what you do and the fact that you exist.
In business, it’s not just who you are, and what you do, but also who you know, that can make a difference in building a profitable and successful business.
One of the best ways of getting to know new people that could help your business grow, is by attending networking events. But networking, speaking in front of a group of other business people, and saying the right things don’t come easy to everyone.
Many female business owners that I work with say that they have struggled with:
· Feeling confident about standing up and talking about their business at networking meetings
· Feeling intimidated by the formality of some networking meetings
· Presenting a clear message about what they do because they have different functions to their business (or a portfolio of businesses) and therefore find it a challenge to encapsulate all of this in the one minute networking presentation.
Networking can be one of the most effective, affordable and enjoyable ways of connecting with other business owners that will help you to grow your own business. Done correctly, networking can help you attract good quality referrals of the exact people you wish to work with or who you want to buy your products and services.
The tips below will help you to start to become more confident about attending these types of events:
1) Find the right event – there are many different types of networking meeting and there will be one (or more) that it is right for you and the type of business that you run. Networking meetings can be formal or informal or even a mixture. Some are held at breakfast time (not great if you have to do the school run!) or mid-morning, or evenings. There are networking events that you can just turn up to and buy a coffee and chat with other like minded business owners or the more formal membership type options, which are more like business clubs, where you pay a monthly or annual membership fee and/or a meeting fee. There are mixed gender meetings and single sex groups that you can attend.
The trick is finding the ones that you feel comfortable attending, that you feel are affordable for you and where you feel that you will be mixing with people who will be interested in what you do.
2) Arrive Early – try to get to the meeting early, so that you get a chance to chat informally to a few people before the meeting begins. This is still networking and will break the ice, if you are feeling nervous.
3) Take Plenty of Business Cards – ensure that the information on them is up to date and that you have plenty with you to pass around in the meeting. This is your way of helping people to remember you after the meeting and for you to do the same.
4) Plan ahead – if you are someone who gets nervous about talking about your business in a group situation, then make some notes before you go of what you want to say about what you do. This will ensure that you don’t ramble on. Usually you are asked to speak for a minute and this goes very quickly. Time is precious, so decide before hand what you will say and stick to it.
5) Be Yourself – this one is hugely important. Networking is really about building relationships with other people and businesses. “People buy from people” so this is your chance to foster good relationships with others: be genuine and make time to listen to what other people do.