The benefits of networking are well established. When businesses come together, they can share knowledge, build connections, discover new opportunities and raise their profile. 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 make the most of networking events?
Before attending a networking event
Each networking event will have its own format and it can help to do a little research to see which might suit your business best. Most will make contact details for the organiser available, so you can ask questions beforehand. It’s also good to book on to sessions early, so the organisers can prepare and offer you a warm welcome.
You can also do some preparation before attending the event. For example, it would be helpful to have a brief introduction ready and to have business cards to hand. It’s also useful 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
A good impression can go a long way. Try to arrive a little early and make sure you introduce yourself to people. The coffee queue can be the perfect place for this! A good rule to follow is 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 so focus on making connections and consider how you can help the other businesses you meet.
A good tip is to take a pen and notepad with you. As people introduce themselves, try to make some notes. This can come in handy later. However, 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 the meeting.
Finally, before leaving, make sure you take the time to thank the organiser.
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, use your notes to 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.
How Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce can help with networking
Networking opportunities are just one benefit we offer 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 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.
If you’re interested in networking with Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, find details of all our networking events here. And, if you would like to become a member, explore our packages and join here.