Networking tips for the networking novice
(19 June 2013)

I recently was asked by some colleagues for tips when networking.

The prospect of networking can be hugely daunting especially if you are new to the industry, role or just promoting yourself in a new arena.
I know the first couple of times I attended networking events I felt very young, green and female. The majority of networking events at that time were dominated by men of a certain age in very grey suits.

Today networking is very diverse. The increase of social media has in turn led to an increase of real life socialising for business. There are invite only groups, female only groups, free events, informative events sponsored by big brands...the list is exhaustive.

So I have tried to list a few pointers I would have benefitted from in the early days.

Who will be there?
It is always worth researching the companies attending. You are often issued with a list of attendees prior to the event. It is worth visiting a few websites and having a few companies that you are interested in talking to in mind. If it's a good networking group the organisers will have pre-empted who you'll be interested in and sat you near each other.

My colleagues were attending a Young Entrepreneur Society networking event where the majority of people were start ups under 30.  Amongst them were some established companies (mentors) as well.

When you get there
Practical tips:
– have your business cards in your right hand jacket pocket so they are easily accessible if someone asks for one. You can put their cards in your left hand pocket.
– try to keep baggage to a minimum. Make the most of any cloakroom and check in any coats, extra bags, trainers.

Getting involved
In essence networking is just formal socialising with people you wouldn't normally mix with. It's not about pitching your business and making sales. It is about chatting with people.  So find out what business they’re in.  Find out about them in general. Few people enjoying introducing themselves to strangers and starting conversations so they’ll be relieved and happy to chat about themselves.

Explaining what you do
If you've asked your questions and you're asked what you do then you explain your business.
Pitch your business as if you were explaining it to a friend who has shown interest in using your service or product .  Relaxed and not pushy but with enough detail that if they’re interested they will ask more questions. Try to tailor your detail to how you think you could help them.
As a rule I try not to discuss prices just the value. 
If they are interested in finding out more then you can take their card or details and email them when you are in the office.

Use the experience to learn about other businesses and how you can better serve them. If you do get any sales from networking it is most often indirect, through word of mouth so just mingle, enjoy the refreshments and see what you learn.

Author: Sally-Ann White
Date: 19 June 2013