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Like mentioned in a previous post on the importance of networking, there are major benefits to being involved in some sort of networking during your entrepreneurial journey. I did mention that there are some things you shouldn’t do, so I thought a networking do’s and don’ts post would be helpful.
DO: Just show up: The first step is just stepping out of your comfort zone and going. It can be scary to go to a room full of strangers, but the more often you go, they won’t be strangers anymore. Pump yourself up and go to a networking event near you and be confident enough to mingle and introduce yourself to people there. You don’t have to become instant best friends and form a business relationship, those will form over time, but saying hello and introducing your business is a big first step. Plus, in todays environment where there is a lot of uncertainty for in-person events, you can also join networking Facebook groups and interact virtually. But, you have to actually interact to find any benefits!
DO: Bring Business Cards: I know this may seem like an obvious, but the more you attend events, the easier it is to forget because you begin to get to know the people in attendance and think cards aren’t necessary – but there will always be someone new, there will always be new conversations that pop up that might request a business card. You can also always give a business card to the establishment in which your networking event is taking place.
DON’T: Go in expecting immediate referrals with no intention to refer others. Networking is a two-way street. Anyone who becomes involved in networking just to gain referrals without thinking you should be forming relationships that will lead you to referring people to the businesses that you meet, then people will realize that you aren’t a team player that is all about community and your referrals will likely stop coming in.
DON’T: Stay in a corner or only talk to people you already know: The quickest way to waste a networking event experience is by being too shy and staying to yourself or by only speaking to people you already know. Challenge yourself to talk to new people. You can’t form new business relationships without introducing yourself to someone you haven’t met before or even just connecting deeper with someone that you haven’t got to know well yet.
DO: Follow up with people you met: If you talked with someone that you had a lot in common with or had great conversation with, follow up with them via email and setup a time to grab lunch or coffee on a smaller level. This is where true business relationships can form because you begin getting to know their skills and this can even lead to collaborations.
DON’T: Provide inaccurate RSVPs: As someone who co-leads a networking group, it is so difficult to plan a networking event if we have inaccurate RSVP counts. If last minute things come up, that is totally understandable, but if you are that person who RSVPs yes and then has no intentions on going or backs out last minute, then you need to avoid RSVPing until you know 100% you will be attending. You never know what arrangements are needing to be made based on those counts.
DO: Have fun: Yes, you should have fun! It doesn’t have to be strictly business all the time – meeting people with common interests is fun. I can tell you that I have formed amazing friendships through networking and so I am telling you it is definitely okay to have fun and be seeking something outside of just business relationships and referrals. Small business owners are cool.
DON’T: Stress about what to wear. If there is a strict dress code, it will be made known by the people who put the event together. If not, just dress in what makes you feel comfortable, usually business casual is great. I have never been to an event where people are judging what others are wearing. Don’t let that stress you out and convince you not to go.
Hopefully these tips help you out a little bit and encourage you to go networking in your area. I can’t express how much of an impact it can have on your business and even your personal life too! Get out there and start getting to know people – I would love to hear about your experiences of networking, so comment or shoot me an email!