After working in a digital environment for almost a decade, and starting my marketing consulting and training business, I have learned the value of making face-to-face connections with people as well as online. It started with calls and video conference sessions, but actually meeting someone in person has taken my business relationships to the next level. It allows people to connect in a way that is simply impossible from a distance. I have been able to build and grow online connections via social media with face to face networking and they work in harmony.

 

Although the definition of networking is ‘to interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’. In a business context though it needs to develop into a ‘Know Like and Trust’ relationship. We do business with people we know, like and trust so building relationships is key.

 

Here are my top 8 tips for making your F2F networking really effective.

 

1. Be yourself
You can only be you! Quite simply, if you start building relationships pretending to be someone you are not then you make it really difficult for people to know like and trust you . It is difficult to build a relationship with an alter ego!

 

2. Build relationships
The best part about networking events is that like-minded individuals are all together in an informal environment.
However, as my experience in networking taught me over the years, when viewed as relationship building, making friends and building bonds can be an incredibly valuable personal and business asset.

 

3.Think about what value you can give?
Admit it or not, we are all in business to make money. Networking is not about meeting people and selling them your stuff the first time you meet them. If you go into a networking situation with a ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality – you won’t get very far.
Think about how you can help others. Who do you know who may be a great connection for them?

 

4. Benefit from new ideas
Generally speaking, there is an acclaimed guest speaker at the majority of networking events. Hearing the ideas of those who have been very successful or proving an informative topic is a wonderful opportunity to learn. If you treat the event as a learning opportunity, you will find them to be very beneficial to you.

 

5. Join a network that ‘feels right’ for you
Go along to a few different types of networking events before you decide which one to join and be a regular attendee at. Some are very formal and work with a format, others very relaxed and some sit in the middle. Are you an early bird or does having a informative networking lunch work better for you?
Spending time in the office can sometimes get a bit too much, so why not attend a networking event to break up your day? Networking events provide a great setting for both socialising as well as boosting your business and career, so it is win-win from that perspective.

 

6. Make a commitment
Don’t be a ‘networking butterfly’. Remember the building relationships stuff? Well, you can’t do that if you flit in and out of numerous networking events, never stopping round long enough to make those all-important connections. You need to commit to the ‘networking game’ for mid to long term.
Sign up for monthly membership subscriptions. Some networking events offer discounts for this option and save time having to remember to pay each month. All you need to do is bring yourself.

 

7. Get on a team
Some networking events have a voluntary team which invites members to be a part of. Ask if they have a vacancy? Could you commit to having a role? Being on a team raises your profile in the network and it is a great way of giving back to the community.

 

8. Be a guest speaker
This can be a great opportunity to promote your business and personal brand, although it might take a little effort and some speaking skills, it will be worth it.
As a speaker, you have an opportunity to indirectly promote your business, brand and products without trying to oversell your services, even if you don’t get clients immediately, you may get referrals from attendees.

 

If you would like to join our monthly networking lunches for small business owners please visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sevenoaksnetworkinglunch/