Networking: an essential tool to help you grow your small business
Shraga Zaltzman is CEO of business and work specialist Work Avenue. In this guest article, he acknowledges that networking is an often underutilised tool for growing a business and dishes out some useful advice on how to do it properly and with confidence.
Networking is an integral part of running any business, but it is particularly important for smaller businesses and start-ups looking to grow; by expanding your professional network and engaging with potential clients, investors, business partners and others in your industry, you are far more likely to succeed.
Many entrepreneurs and small businesses don’t attend as many networking events as they ideally should. Whether this be due to lack to time, confidence or desire, by not taking advantage of these opportunities, you are missing an opportunity to promote your business and gain mutually beneficial contacts.
Networking, both on and offline, is essential, and there are several steps you can take in order to get the most out of the experience.
Take advantage of online tools
The rise of social media has propelled the use of professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn. When used correctly, these sites are not only a great tool to promote your personal skills and experience, but are an effective resource to connect with other professionals in a particular industry.
Ensure you continually update your LinkedIn profile so that all information is up-to-date and comprehensive.
Regularly posting relevant content will attract the right people to your profile, while sharing and commenting on posts by other users is a great way to strike up a conversation.
Swot up on attendees
Before attending a networking event, request a list of attendees and find out who you need to meet. Research the companies attending and the background of each delegate who you think would be a useful contact.
You will then have at your disposal plenty of information in order to make your approach personal, by discussing mutual topics of interest, or something you have in common.
Don’t only stick to shop talk; asking questions about their interests outside of work can help build a relationship.
Confidence is key
Walking into a room filled with strangers is a daunting prospect for many, but practice makes perfect, so banish your nerves and ooze confidence; before long, you will be able to work a room and make new business contacts like a pro.
Remember that others attending a networking event are likely to be feeling equally as nervous as yourself, so don’t be afraid to make the first move. If you see a group of people chatting, introduce yourself and get involved in the conversation. The drinks table is a natural point of congregation, so you’ll easily get talking to somebody here.
Have something interesting to say
Brush up on the headlines and any topical news relating to your area of work before an event. Not only will this give you some great conversation starters, this also gives you the opportunity to share your opinions and expertise with your peers – you might even learn something new.
You can find a whole range of industry-specific networking events on the Eventbrite website.