I have been planning 2015, filling in the diary, project managing business development and events…and of course working out my networking schedule.
When I first started out working with small businesses I was new to networking. I had heard about these groups but they were shrouded in mystery and I wasn’t sure of the purpose other than selling your products or services? So I launched myself into the world of networking with varying degrees of success. Painful experience by painful experience I worked out which groups worked for me and which didn’t. Each visit was an opportunity to work out how to introduce myself, how to handle the very different personalities that you will invariably find in a meeting, how to sometimes shut up and let others speak and when to stand up and stand out yourself. Oh…and the money I must have spent on breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The calories consumed, the boring presentations I have slept through.
But five years on, this is where I am. Networking works. Works for me and my business. And it is a long haul. Building relationships and a profile doesn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t happen at all if you think networking is about selling and pushing your business down other people’s throats. Over the years I have met some amazing people, built friendships and collaborative relationships, and yes, happened to have got business and referrals along the way. The events I go to and the groups I attend have helped me learn, helped me grow my business and given me huge support.
So here are three things I have learned ( and am still learning):
- Don’t prostitute yourself! I don’t go to as many networking events as I used to. I am more circumspect and choosy about where I spend my time and who I spent it with. If you are new to networking you may have to try a few out to see what works. If you have been networking a while , take some time to work out which work for you and cut the ones that don’t.
- Measure how your networking activities work for you. In part this might be hard stats ( referrals, business). But don’t forget the soft facts too ( connections made, conversations held, learning and support gained). This is a long game. Relationships are give and take, sometimes take time to slowly flower and blossom.
- Know why you are going to networking meetings. To make connections? To raise your profile? To get your message out there? to understand the market? Makes it so much easier to plan the right meetings and make the right conversations with the right people.
So enjoy your networking. It’s about more than the 60 second introduction…it’s about making those connections that support and help your business grow. Good luck for 2015.
What is your experience of networking? What have you learned in the time since you have been networking?