Top Tips to Networking
One of the most difficult things to being a founder or running an early-stage business is the lack of human resources and the sheer amount and diversity of work that needs to be done. This can so often lead to founders getting caught in a cycle of fighting fires and finding themselves not able to have a planned approach, nor to being able to look at the overall picture of what needs to be done and when.
This situation is often referred to as the founder spending too much time working in the business and not enough time working on the business. Whilst all those urgent tasks do need to be attended to, it is still important that all those other more general tasks that go hand in hand with growing a business are also not forgotten about.
One such task is networking. This can often be seen as one of the easier tasks to put off as each event is often a ring-fenced project and it can also be difficult to judge the return on the investment of time spent. I am a firm believer in the benefits of networking, especially at face-to-face events, but accepting that time and funds might be limited, what are the top tips to networking?
- Attend – Decide what events look useful for you and your business for whatever it is that you are seeking to achieve at the time and then sign up. But having signed, up do all that you can to attend and not just cancel on the day. Not only is that bad form for the organisers but it does not maximise you’re your own time and efforts.
- Be Choosy – Once you have attended a number of events you will quickly get a feel for the ones that prove to be more successful for you. Having identified them, concentrate on those but it can always be good to try some new ones also.
- Virtual or Real – Virtual networking events have the benefit of bringing together people from a much wider geographic region, but it is very difficult to start to get to know someone and form any working relationship this way, so many prefer face-to-face networking. Decide what works best for you and then focus on that.
- Free or paid – Many of the best networking events are free or charge just a nominal entrance fee whilst some of the worst events are also the most expensive, so the cost is not a gauge. Recommendations work well.
- Socials – Just like networking events it is important to try out different social networks and find what works best for you and your business. As an individual in business if you do not have an up to date LinkedIn profile you will probably not be taken seriously.
- Quality not quantity – Networking should be about making good quality and useful contacts to help you to grow your business. It should not simply be a numbers game as so many seem to think.
- Work the room – Networking events should be fun, and you never know who you will meet and where that might lead, but the point of going to an event is to have interesting conversations and meet quality new leads. This means working the room to speak to as many people as you can.
- Attend regularly – By attending events regularly you will build up a strong personal network and ecosystem and will meet some of the same people in other events. This makes them more fun and deepens relationships.
Networking then should be viewed as an important task and one that needs to be taken seriously even when it might seem to be something that is easy to cut in order to save a little time. Not only can it help to form the basis of you and your business in the business community, but it might also just reveal that ‘lottery ticket’ winning encounter that helps you to transform your start-up into something much larger.