‘I couldn’t think of doing anything worse’  is an opinion often expressed about networking.

You’ve probably already experienced the loneliness of walking into a room full of strangers, having forced conversations and listening to interminable sales pitches – so why do so many people, I included, do it and keep coming back for more?

The answer lies in finding the right group for you. There are breakfast, lunch and dinner groups, weekly fortnightly and monthly groups and even those that specifically cater for the school run. Try a few before you commit to one and then stick at it. Successful networking is all about building relationships and that takes time. After a few visits, those strangers will become familiar faces and you’ll have started to have things in common.  That is how to love networking!

As well as being a means of finding new clients attending networking events is also a great support structure for SMEs. It can replace the workplace camaraderie enjoyed by employees at bigger companies but, unless you are happy just to socialise, you’ll need to set some measurable goals too.

So, after much deliberation, you’ve chosen your group. The first question you will be asked is ‘What do you do?’ and this is a question you’ll be hearing over and over. The obvious answer is to name your chosen field, but you can elicit far greater resonance by using a slightly cryptic response. ‘I help people get more clients’ or ‘I save people money’ for example, will encourage the listener to ask you to tell them more.

However, it’s good to turn the conversation around and find out what your fellow networkers do. In fact, the greatest compliment you can pay someone whilst networking is listening properly to what they say. Then once you know what they do and what sort of clients they are looking for you should make it your aim to go out and find them. Announcing you’ve got leads for group members is a sure fire way to make them want to do the same for you.

At most meetings, you’ll be expected to make a short presentation about what you do and who you are looking for. Too many people just turn up without giving this any thought at all. The secret is plan what you are going to say, make it memorable but deliver it in an off the cuff fashion. Mark Twain once famously said ‘It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech’.

It’s often said that networking is not just about the people in the room, it’s about the people they know and that is so true. You might never do business with some people, but they might just be able to introduce you to your perfect client.

Most successful networkers know that the real work begins after the meeting. You’ve collected some cards so email everyone and say it was good to meet them. Connect with them on social media and suggest  arranging some 1-1 meetings. Don’t be surprised when not everyone replies though! After all, we can’t all be great networkers, can we?

But that is how to love networking. If you want to know more please just leave me some comments below. Or find me networking!