It is well established that there are numerous benefits to networking. When businesses come together, they can share knowledge and relevant news. Networking is also an opportunity for them to build connections, discover new opportunities and raise their profile. There are also benefits for the individual who attends the meetings. For example, the meetings can develop their own reputation and support them in growing confidence. However, this only happens if you approach networking in the right way. Networking is like much else in life: you get out what you put in. But how can you maximise your networking opportunities?
Before attending a networking event
There are many networking sessions running across Bedfordshire. Each one will have its own format and a slightly different approach. Start by doing a little research before deciding on which might suit you and your business best. If you have questions, find the contact details for the organiser, and drop them a message.
Try to book onto sessions in plenty of time, so the organisers have time to prepare themselves. Most will often want to welcome a new business and share with them the format of the session. Sometimes, they also like to provide name badges. If you book a morning session the night before, they might not be expecting you.
Before attending the networking session, you can do a few things to ensure you’re well prepared. Prepare a brief introduction of two to three sentences and make sure you have business cards with the correct contact details on them. It’s also helpful to set in mind your intentions for networking. A quick hint, this isn’t to come away with a certain number of sales. Instead, you might focus on the types of businesses you wish to meet. Or, if you’re nervous, you could set a target for the number of conversations you will have.
During the networking meeting
When arriving at the networking meeting, strive to make a good impression. If it is your first time networking with that organiser, arrive a little early. This will help them stay organised, support you, and sort any paperwork that may need completing.
Make sure you introduce yourself and talk to people. Be aware of your body language and show you’re interested in what they’re saying. Tilting your head slightly to the side is a good indicator that you are listening. Aim to listen more than you talk.
Some businesses join networking events intending to generate leads. While this can be the case, don’t make the mistake of thinking of networking in terms of sales. Instead, focus on making connections. The leads and sales will often come further down the line with referrals from the connections you make. But first, you need to build those relationships. Networking also offers many other opportunities which can benefit your business. Keep the focus on making connections and you will get far more out of your networking. Remember, this is a two-way process. Spend more time considering how you can help another business than how they might help you.
As people introduce themselves, try to make some notes. Sometimes, a business card has little information, and details can be hard to remember after a meeting. Don’t feel as if you’ve got to get business cards from everyone – focus on those you would like to follow up with after
After the networking event
Networking doesn’t finish at the end of the meeting. In fact, often, the magic happens during the follow-up process. This is when businesses will build stronger relationships and support each other. Most will start with an email. If you take this approach, include a detail which shows you were listening to what they said during the meeting. This will go a long way in developing the relationship (another reason to make notes).
How we can help with networking
Networking opportunities are just one benefit offered by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, with a variety of events held each month. As well as offering in-person events, we also run online networking sessions. Many of these events are open to non-members, too. In addition, we run specialised events, such as our Manufacturers Breakfast Event, and share networking events from our partners.
However, our networking doesn’t just happen within our events. We know our members well and when one requires support with an aspect of their business, we can connect them with others able to help. Making connections is at the heart of what we do.
Click here if you’re interested in networking with Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce