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Lisa Greenhalgh, COO. “If your business comes from relationships, make relationships your business.”

Networking isn’t just about fun events, it’s a vital part to growing your business and building relationships and contacts that will help your organization to flourish.

Here are my top tips to effective networking:

Before the event

Know what you want to achieve from these networking events. What are your goals? If there is a list of attendees, identify any that you particularly want to speak to (and ask around in your organisation if they know any of the people going, if you don’t know anyone).

Have a clear 30 second pitch of who you are, what company you work for, what you do and why you’re there. By being clear and concise, people can easily understand who you are and then introduce you to other people who they think you may want to speak to.

Bring business cards. This seems simple, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve watched people fumble in their hand bags for business cards, before realizing they don’t actually have any on them. I try to keep some in my pockets and my bag, always check you have enough before the event.

At the event

It may seem tempting to arrive late and disappear into a busy room. However, my top tip is to arrive early; the room will be quieter and calmer, people won’t have already settled into their groups and you can start to speak to people easily.

If you do arrive late, use simple questions such as ‘What brings you to this event?’ to join a group discussion that has already began. Don’t be afraid to join a group. Very, very rarely will people be anything other than welcoming when you ask if you can join them.

When introducing yourself only say your first name as people get flustered trying to remember your surname etc.

Be genuine. Networking is all about trust and building relationships; this won’t happen if you’re trying to be something you’re not.

Ask open ended questions. These will start discussion and show that you’re interested in the people you’re talking to. Listen carefully and participate in the discussion that you’ve started!

Show your skills and that you could be a powerful resource within your area of expertise, i.e. finance. People will turn to you for advice and therefore you can also turn to them when you need their expertise.

Smile and let your passion for your business shine through, it’s honestly very inviting.

Be open-minded. It’s amazing how often you can meet someone/or find out something really interesting.

After the event

Follow up on all useful contacts you have made over the next few days. A LinkedIn invite is a simple way to keep you connected; add a small note with your invite, explaining how you enjoyed meeting them at the event, reminding them of who you are.

Visit as many events as you can once you find a networking group that you enjoy. The more you attend, the better you’ll get to know the individuals. - Try to hold volunteer positions within the networking group – it will keep you involved, visible and allow you to give something back.

Finally, always remember, a diverse network is more powerful than a large network.

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