Attending networking events probably isn't your favourite thing in the world.
To be honest, the first event I ever went to (over ten years ago now!) made me physically sick.
Not out of repulsion, but out of sheer terror!
We're told all our lives not to speak to strangers, then all of a sudden we're thrown into a room full them and are expected to know how to act.
As painful as it can be to start with, getting into networking is without a doubt one of the best things I've ever done.
Not only has it helped with things like presentation skills, knowledge sharing, business development etc but I actually built my career on it - running networking organisations in Liverpool, Cumbria and the North East and building relationships that have led to amazing career opportunities.
Now I'm not expecting you to get into networking as a career, but the power that networking has for your business (new or established) can genuinely be life-changing.
So, if your New Year's resolution is to get out and go networking, here are some top tips to get you started!
When you're starting out it's a great idea to arrive at a networking event a little early - that way you can settle into your surroundings. You have the chance to chat to the event organiser (who'll be the most connected person there!) and you don't have to walk into a room full of strangers - they'll be walking into your room.
Try, Try & Try Again
There are so many different formats for networking events., so I always tell people to try as many as you can. Net-walking, speed-networking, informal, structured, lunch, pizza & beer, give them all a go.
Finding the style of event you enjoy most is important because it becomes less work to attend. Enjoying an event means you're going to be more relaxed too, so you're more likely to be yourself and get to know people better.
Everyone Is Important
People often make the mistake of dismissing people they meet at events because they're not their target market. But the more you network, the quicker you realise that it's a very small world and everyone knows everyone...or just about.
Just because you can't directly sell to someone (which isn't always the main point of networking) doesn't mean they're not important. When you're talking to someone you're also talking to everyone they know - friends, family, colleagues, network.
Dropping someone an email after you've met at an event is a great way to continue the conversation. It's also a great way to get your contact details into their email (people lose business cards). And if you promised to send them info on something make sure you do it - it shows that you're reliable and helpful! People love helpful!
And on that helpful note, here are some links to useful networking event resources here in the North East.
Regardless of what kind of startup you’re building, networking will in one way or another play a role in the growth of your business.