What I learnt from my first Networking event
This year, one thing that has changed my business approach is the amount of business books I've been reading (blog post pending). All of them will tell you the same thing, in order to grow your business you must network. I knew this before reading these books but the thought of attending networking events was something so far out of my comfort zone I always put it off. I'd use excuses such as 'I'm my own boss for a reason', 'my business is online, I don't need to go to local events' but knew that these were just excuses to make me feel better.
After reading one book, I felt if I didn't network now, I never would. So with this in mind I looked for local events and found one for a few weeks later, Southampton Business Expo. Advertised as the biggest business expo in the South I signed up.
I felt nervous before the event, I didn't know what I needed to take with me or what to expect. I looked at the day plan and decided which talks I wanted to attend, scheduled these and made sure I left time to have a look round the event.
Armed with a notepad and some business cards, I arrived at the Ageas bowl with no expectations. I'd said to myself this was a learning experience and it didn't matter if nothing came of it. I signed in, got my lanyard and looked round the event 2 or 3 times.
If I'm honest, I felt a little overwhelmed at the amount of people here. I felt out of place and began to doubt whether I belonged amongst these professionals. When walking round the event, I was looking for booths that interested me, ones I felt I could recommend to clients or work with myself. The first booth I stopped to talk to was a social media agency. The lady I spoke to had started her business 3 years ago and was local to the area - we immediately had something in common. We spoke about how we work, referrals and clients we work with. I immediately felt more at ease - this was another small business with the same passion and excitement I have. This was someone that wanted to work with me and asked if she could refer me to her clients!
From this point on, I felt much more relaxed. I approached booths I knew would have a common interest, I asked them about their business and told them about mine. Each professional I spoke to was interested in what I do and asked if they could refer me! I went from feeling very small in comparison to others, to other professionals asking for my business cards to keep in touch!
I've emailed people that I connected with on the day, to remind them both that I am here and that I will be looking to work with them in the future. Connections have been established already and I will definitely attend more networking events.
My top tips would be:
- 1. Don't go with any expectations.
- 2. Speak to people about your business, as you would your friends. Let them see you're passionate.
- 3. Follow up with everyone you connect with, they could become invaluable to your business.
- 4. Don't just think about potential clients at these events - have a look at the small businesses there and ask how you can support them.