I’m sitting in the bar of a hotel in Chatham while I write this. I’ve come straight from the school run, so I’m nearly two hours early. I thought I’d use this time to write about networking, and hopefully ease the anxieties that some people have.
It’s guaranteed that, as a small business owner, you have toyed with the idea of face-to-face networking. Most of you will have started networking online. Most of us feel this is easier as we can hide behind our phone/laptop or PC, it’s predominantly free and it doesn’t take us away from our office and comfort zone.
When I set up my business, for the first three months, I did exactly as mentioned above. With minimal success. I was lucky in that I got my first two clients with relative ease, but after that things got a bit more tricky. I turned to online networking, and was surprised how time consuming it is.
I researched Facebook groups to join and engage in. This is a great way of building relationships and trust, if you can help and advise other members. I have a few potential clients who I met this way.
Another useful way to network online is through forums, where your audience or even influencers ‘hang out’. Good relationships can be built the same as in Facebook groups.
In my opinion, no amount of online networking can replace or be as successful as meeting, talking and connecting with people face-to-face.
Even in this time of all things digital. ‘People still buy people’. At the risk of separating men and women in business, they have always and will forevermore do business differently.
In my experience, men tend to meet once, have a straight-talking discussion about what they need and what they offer. They may then, have a follow-up phone call and ‘bam’ they’re working together.
Us ladies, well, we like to get to know somebody first. We like to meet, chat, meet, chat, maybe meet again, chat on the phone, and then, with a much softer ‘bam’, we’re working together.
So, coming back to face-to-face networking. Meeting people, building a solid relationship and connection is valuable to your business.
I know what some of you are thinking… ‘I’m not very good at talking about myself’, ‘I don’t want to go on my own’. Well, I’ve got news for you. EVERYONE feels like that at first. I booked my first networking event, I prepared for it, both mentally and in terms of making sure I had ample business cards etc. to take with me. I told a few people I was going, how nervous I was, but how I knew it was essential for my business.
The big day came. I got up, took the kids to school, got in the car, put the satnav on, and… chickened out and went home. Creating several reasons to justify to myself why I couldn’t do it!
For the rest of the day, I was kicking myself. How could a relatively intelligent, outgoing, forty-one-year-old woman, be too afraid to be in a room full of other people whose reason for being there was the same as mine?
I’m sure some of you reading this are chuckling as you too have done something similar.
A week later and after having a stern word with myself, I decided to book myself onto another event. Throwing myself in at the deep end, as this was a big Kent based event. Having done the same as before, preparing and telling a few people, the day arrived. This time though, I actually went. I’m a big gun now. A serious businesswoman.
I CAN DO THIS!
The event was very useful. The speakers taught me a lot. Nervous as anything though, I kept myself to myself. Spoke to a few exhibitors and went home. Not a complete waste of time, but not how I had envisaged.
After this, I decided to take things a bit slower and I booked onto a smaller event. You know the drill now. Prepare…told people…went…AND…Amazing. This was my kind of networking event, less people, more intimate, yet more than enough people to make it a great success. That day, I met some lovely people, started building a relationship with some of them, and now I am working with one of the amazing ladies I chatted to there.
That day, I realised that smaller events were the ones for me. Different personalities suit different environments and I had found mine.
Since then, I have been to several different events and joined two networking groups that I regularly attend. So now, when I go to an event, I always know at least a few people in the room. Now though, I look forward to meeting the people I don’t yet know.
Networking is a must for your business, whether it be a six-monthly thing, a monthly thing or even weekly. Some people become serial networkers as they love being around people and they thrive off the buzz of it all.
So, get out there and meet some inspirational people who will either influence you or who you may influence.
YOU CAN DO IT!!
If you have any questions about networking or any of the services I provide, please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.