Networking is one of those buzzwords that everyone talks about doing but don't seam to have a clear idea of why.
When I started my SEO business I found myself doing a lot of networking without having a clear idea of what exactly the value was and how it was going to help my business.
I regularly attend the Flying Solo small business meetup which is held monthly in different places around Adelaide (next one coming up on September 5th). In the lead up to the meetup, I always see people umming and ahhing over whether they can fit it in to their busy schedule which seems to point to the fact that most people think there's some value there but that its far from the most productive thing they could be doing with their time.
Good things that can come from networking;
- New clients/customers (either those that you meet or by referral from someone you meet)
- Increased reputation, personal branding and awareness
- Business/joint venture partners
- Business advice and tips
- An opportunity to make friends, get support and vent with like minded people
My Networking Tips
1) Figure out what your networking objectives are. If you want to meet small business owners, then maybe attending a networking event for professionals is not the best use of your time.
2) Arrive early. Its harder to enter existing conversations than it is to start them. If you get there early, you can strike up a conversation with people as they arrive.
3) Try and meet everybody. You never know what you could be missing out on so a good strategy is to try and meet everyone then go back to the people who are most interesting to you if you have time. This is not a hard and fast rule. If you're engaged in conversation with someone interesting and relevant then you don't want to just kick them to the curb but if there's a break in the conversation, use the opportunity to move onto someone new rather than returning to the same person.
4) Focus on others, not yourself. I think you can get far more value by listening, asking questions and helping other people out than you can by talking about yourself and your business. If you can provide value to someone, they're much more likely hire you, refer you work and talk about you in a positive light to others. Further, by listening and asking questions you can learn more about the problems people are having and how you can help them solve those problems.
5) Collect business cards. While your instinct might be to try and give out as many of your business cards as possible, don't forget to collect the business cards of those that you meet so you can connect with them later. I also like to group business cards by the event so if I'm going back next time I can have a look at the cards of those I met so I remember their names and what they do when I see them again.
6) Follow up and follow up some more. In the first few days after the event, try and follow up with those that you met. Add onto the conversation that you had with another thought or a link to something they might find useful or interesting. Try and keep in contact with people by connecting with them every now and then via email, social media, commenting on their blog or even a phone call.
For some more ideas and pro tips, check out this networking article.
Adelaide Networking Events
- Flying Solo Meetup - Small business owners, held monthly, usually 5-10 people
- Adelaide Open Networkers - Some small business owners but mostly professionals, held every 2 months or so, 20-40 people (last time I was there)
- The Startup Club Adelaide - They haven't had any events for a while but I think they are starting them again soon? I've not been to any events so don't know much about them but I've heard they're good
- Young Leaders at the Office - Young IT professionals, every 1-2 months, small cost for non ACA members, 15-30 people
- Silicon Beach Adelaide Meetup - Tech based entrepreneurs, geeks and businesses, held monthly, 10-30 people
- Adelaide Word of Mouth - Business owners & professionals, a few events each month, free, I've not been to any events yet but I hear they are quite popular.