How to enjoy – and succeed at – networking

Posted on: March 15th, 2011

For ages I didn’t enjoy face-to-face networking. I had all kinds of excuses not to do it:

  • “I don’t want to walk into a room full of strangers.”
  • “I don’t want to get up for an early breakfast.”
  • “I’m too busy.”
  • “I don’t like standing up and doing my one-minute speech.”
  • “The people I meet aren’t relevant to my business.”

But then I discovered the answer to successful networking:

GO TO EVENTS YOU ENJOY

For example, today, I’m going to an afternoon ‘cakeworking’ event. Eight business people meeting up to eat cakes at Patisserie Valerie in Marylebone High Street. No stress or effort involved. Just yummy cakes and informal networking chat.

Here are five more things I’ve learned about how to network successfully:

Join a group with like-minded members

OK, you might have to attend a few as a guest to find one that’s right for you. To save time, do some homework first: take a look at the group’s website to get a feel for who they are, what the format is, what kind of people are members etc.

Go on a regular basis

Once you’ve found a networking group you like, go often and get to know the other members. It’s rare that you’ll get new business from meeting a contact once. You have to build up trust and rapport first. That’s because people buy from those they know and like, not from strangers.

Talk to the people you want to meet

Once you get the attendee list of the event you’re going to, work out which individuals you want to meet and make a point of introducing yourself to them. It sounds obvious but, too often, we end up spending most of the time chatting to people we already know.

Interact with your networking colleagues online

Chat to the people in your networking group on Twitter, comment on their blog posts and their Facebook business page, hook up with them on LinkedIn.

Focus your efforts on just one or two groups

I’m a member of a networking group for businesswomen and I focus most of my efforts on getting to know people from this one group. And the ‘cakeworking’ event is one of a number of an ad hoc networking activities organised by another freelancer I know.

Once you come to view networking as an enjoyable activity and not a chore, you’ll start to reap the benefits. In fact, since I’ve discovered that face-to-face networking can be fun, I’ve gained lots of interesting business contacts, won some rather nice projects, and met some great new friends.

What kind of networking events work for you?

Related posts: Top Networking Tips

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4 Responses to “How to enjoy – and succeed at – networking”

  1. OMG “cakeworking” sounds AMAZING!

  2. Freelance FactFile
    March 15th, 2011

    It was! They happen once a quarter and there were 14 of us today. Everyone chooses their own cake (that’s the hard part, as there were so many) plus there’s a slice of chocolate mousse cake that we all have to ‘test’ so we can rate the best mousse out of all the places we’ve been to.

  3. Marina Gask
    March 15th, 2011

    Patisserie Val: you can’t go too far wrong, whichever cake you choose x

  4. Carole
    March 16th, 2011

    And so many choices….in the end, I went for a French apple tart.

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