Networking is one of the best ways for small businesses to gain new business. Business networking is about building business relationships that lead to referrals.  Ask any established business and they will confirm the statistic that over 80% of all business comes from business referrals. So whether you love it or hate it, if you are running a business it’s worth doing as part of your marketing strategy.  But what if your worst nightmare is turning up at a networking event where everyone is talking to each other and you know nobody?

First of all you are not alone with that thought. I facilitate many networking workshops and I know that most people fear not being able to break into conversations at a networking event.  So I’ve prepared five tips to help make it easier for you so you can relax.  One of the biggest turn offs for people around networking is the thought that they have to sell themselves and that other people are selling themselves to you.  I want to make it completely clear that this is NOT networking.  Networking is building relationships and if you think about any other relationships you have in your life most were not built on a sales pitch!  Building relationships in business is just like building friendships.  You need to be a good business friend before any referrals come your way.  Let’s get on with the tips because none of this will happen until you get to a business networking event!

1. Relax you don’t have to sell yourself.

The most important thing to do at a networking event is to be friendly and meet people.  So really you just have to turn up with a smile and a few conversation starters.  You don’t have to meet the whole room.  Having conversations with one or two people is just fine.  Quality conversations over quantity is important and it certainly doesn’t have to be about business.  Asking questions to the other person and learning more about them can create a much better first impression than talking about your own business.

2. Arrive early.

If you are worried about walking into a room already talking to each other you might consider arriving five or ten minutes early.  That way you’ll be one of the first to arrive and can get talking to the other early attendees in a less daunting environment.

3. Ask the organiser to help you make introductions.

Identify who the organiser of the event is before you attend and make contact with them on the night.  Ask them for their help in introducing you to people.

4. Take a friend with you.

This can be a great tactic if you are concerned about having no one to talk to and are a bit on the shy side.  You can work as a team with your friend and introduce each other.

5. Choose events at your preferred time.

You can go to networking events from early in the morning to the evening.  To set yourself up for success consider attending events that work in with your body clock.  It might be difficult for night owls to be their best at an early morning breakfast likewise someone who is at the brightest in the morning may struggle at an evening networking event.

If you would like help working out your networking strategy please get in touch.  Or read some of the other
AP Marketing Works insights on networking for more inspiration.