The past few weeks I’ve started attending events where my specific purpose was to network. Whilst, I’ve attended events before and met new people, networking has never been the prime reason for me going. Now it is and I’ve learnt a thing or two.
Before venturing out I researched networking - well, its not about selling so that was news to me, good news, so I don’t have to stand there and pitch. I carried on researching, got my hints and tips, my facts, names and questions and fully prepared myself.
Slightly terrified I set off to my first event - a full day event with lunch. I’d done my research, looked up the others, had my specific questions and plonked myself down. I was warmly welcomed, encouraged to contribute and soon my nerves went out the window along with my prepared questions! This was a Cornwall Business Forum (CBF) event and, not like any other networking I subsequently attended. It was however very productive and interesting for me. We all talked openly and honestly about our businesses, our problems, receiving and giving advice; it was more like a business support group with old friends.
Next I attended Plymouth Women in Business Networking lunch. This was an informal session with a speaker. The structure of this event was more how I had expected networking would be. I arrived early and, again, was warmly welcomed by organisers and seasoned attendees, alike. I tentatively greeted other perceived “newbies” with nerves in my voice, talking way too fast (as I often do) but found common ground and happily gabbled at them sharing business cards and stories.
The following month I went again, a bit more confident, hopefully sounding less garbled and struck up conversations with a few more people than before. I also sat back watching (and envying) those people, who can happily approach a group, introduce themselves swap business cards and move on. That’s never going to me, but the more I attend, the more confident I am getting and the less tongue tied. I am building and affirming more relationships and learning something new all the time.
I’ve now attended quite a few events, become a Board member of Cornwall Business Forum (CBF), learnt loads, got some great free advice, given some free advice, handed out and received loads of business cards and am finally (more or less) at ease with networking .
So what can I share that I’ve learnt about networking:
It’s not about sales
- It’s about making and building relationships
- It’s about trying to support others, pass on advice freely
- Get there early so you don’t have to walk into a really busy room
- There’s more than likely other people just as nervous or as uncomfortable as you
- There are different types of events - sample them all - you don’t have to go back
- Be authentic - help someone because you want to, not because they might buy from you
- Try to enjoy - it's not the worst thing you have to do - surely that’s taxes!
I've added some helpful links below and I am more than happy to share more detail on my experiences and what I’ve found works and what doesn’t. Please feel free to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.