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Nicola Peaty

Top tips for successful networking

By Nicola Peaty

Networking groups have become increasingly popular and readily available in recent years. If used effectively, they can be a great way to meet contacts that can either help your business or become potential clients.

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Here are some top tips in how to make the most of networking groups:
1. Decide which groups are best suited to your needs. Before you turn up at each and every group going in your area, make sure you know the type of people attending the groups. There are some specific to just business women, some just for a local town, some for selected industries, and some for start-up businesses. So it’s important to chose the ones which closely match you and your company.
2. Know why you are going. This possibly sounds a bit strange but you must know why you are attending so that you come across as focussed and with clear business intentions. Is your goal to generate a specific business link to help a particular part of your company? Or, are you purely marketing yourself and raising brand awareness? Whatever your goal, be prepared and stay with your intended purpose.
3. Have a clear message. Once engaged in conversation, it’s so much more professional to convey your purpose if it is thought through. Waffling will get you nowhere and it doesn’t reflect well on you or your company.
4. Listen as well as you speak. All attendees will be there to communicate their intentions. It’s important to listen to others in order to properly engage and ascertain whether they are of any interest. Do not go round like a walking advert announcing the wonders of your company without giving others a chance to talk.
5. Ask relevant questions. A clever line of questioning will allow you to dig a bit and find out potential useful connections. Avoid closed answers questions which give you a yes or no and ask open-ended questions which stimulates more conversation.
6. Give some free advice. If the opportunity arises in your discussions where you are able to impart snippets of useful business information that could help your contact, then that will show your expertise and how your company could be of use to their company, without any overt selling.
7. Be genuine. People buy people and first impressions matter. So make sure your manner is friendly, calm and professional. This will immediately put the other person at ease and allow the conversation to begin much more easily.
8. Move on politely. Let’s face it everyone at the networking group wants to get the most out of it, so if it becomes quite clear in any discussions with new contacts that there is little potential or relevance between you, then it is perfectly acceptable to politely end the conversation and move on.
9. Follow up with contacts. If you manage to make some useful connections at the groups, then don’t wait too long before you follow up and make the next contact with them. This is especially true if you at any point, mentioned you would send them details or call them for a specific purpose.
10. Convert contacts into database and LinkedIn. Post event, make sure you make use of the business cards you collected by entering details into your contact database with relevant notes attached. Plus, if applicable, link in on social media such as LinkedIn and invite contacts to like your social media pages.