The benefits of networking – it’s not just about the coffee (or the beer and pizza)

Every start-up business should seize the opportunity to extract knowledge from those who have been there and done it. Whilst turning up on someone’s doorstep asking questions is likely to be viewed with some suspicion, attending a networking event is a sure-fire way to meet people with a vast resource of business intelligence at their fingertips, and an interest in sharing stories with like-minded folks.

The explosion in popularity of social events where business people can get together in an informal setting is testament to the success of networking. No matter how you prefer to do business, there will be an event on your doorstep which will suit your style. From formal breakfast networking meetings, where everyone is expected to present a one minute elevator pitch about their business, to “Beer and Pizza” lunches (a Southampton Science Park speciality!) where everyone can mingle and talk shop, there really is something for everyone – and the savvy start-up will seize the opportunity to engage with his or her peers at every possible opportunity.

Face to face meetings with companies can be difficult to secure; there are hundreds of people who make appointment setting their business – and achieving 3 or 4 meetings is seen as a satisfactory success rate. By carefully choosing networking sessions that are likely to attract your target audience, you stand a far greater chance of interacting directly with people who could be useful to you.

For really committed networkers, there are large events which attract thousands of people. Events like Digital Shoreditch, which takes place over a week, offering those with a specific interest an opportunity to immerse themselves in presentations, masterclasses and the company of likeminded people. A quick online search will reveal countless events like this, all of which should definitely be on the radar of anyone looking to grow their business.

Networking doesn’t always have to take place at a networking event. If your offices are situated within a larger set-up, where multiple organisations do business, you should grab any opportunity to smile and nod at people you pass in the corridor. Many a deal has been struck next to the watercooler – and you never know when a shared passion for a latte might kick off a conversation that could reap enormous benefits for your business.

Successful networking follows a few simple rules.

  • Don’t talk AT, talk TO. Networking is about having a conversation, not touting for business.
  • It isn’t a numbers game. Having one valuable conversation is better than cruising the room trying to talk to everyone, and achieving nothing.
  • Its about Give and Take. For every pearl of wisdom you receive, give away one of your own.
  • If the event calls for you to make a 60 second elevator pitch, practise, practise, practise.
  • It takes longer to recover the damage you do with a weak handshake than it does to learn to give a firm one!

For more insights, keep visiting this blog where we will be focusing our attentions on getting the most out of networking opportunities.