Before I setup Goringe Accountants I spent a week attending as many business networking events as I could in Reading. This was an essential part of my market research prior to start-up. As a result, I was able to talk to many business owners. In particular I asked them about the current issues they faced, what the market was like for small business owners in Reading (as I worked in London) and information about my future competitors.
Reasons To Attend Networking Events
If you just view a networking event as a sales opportunity you may be missing out on a lot of the other benefits. There are many reasons why I attend a networking event, here are just a few of them:
To hear a speaker, if the subject is of interest to me.
To catch up with associates – many are now friends.
An opportunity to get out of the office and get a wider perspective.
Market research, to find out what potential clients are looking for.
Meet potential new suppliers or associates.
Meet potential referrers, and of course new clients.
Here a few tips for your next networking evening:
Be friendly, and have a firm handshake (personal preference, but I always find a really limp handshake a bit bizarre).
Find out if you have any common points of interest, i.e. don’t just turn the meeting into a sales pitch, as they will probably switch off and look for the nearest exit.
Don’t make early assumptions, you can’t necessarily tell who will be potential clients, millionaires don’t all wear designer clothing.
Try to mingle and meet new people, not just your clique.
The number of quality conversations count, not the number of conversations.
Follow up the meeting with an invitation to coffee or lunch to discuss how you can help each other.
Choosing The Right Event
How to choose the best networking event for you:
Ask colleagues and clients to recommend successful networking meetings that they have attended.
If you can’t string a sentence together first thing in the morning, then lunch time or evening events may suit you better than 7am breakfast meetings.
Find out the type/range of people who normally attend. Some events can be top heavy with business advisors – this may be good for you, but may be annoying for the builder who is looking to meet architects or potential sub-contractors.
There are lots of different styles of meetings, from the informal to heavily organised, e.g. speed networking or referral groups. If you aren’t sure which you prefer try a few to find the type that suits you best.
If you belong to a business organisation, you may find that they already arrange networking events, so this may be a good place to start, e.g. FSB (Federation of Small Businesses), Chamber of Commerce or IOD (Institute of Directors).
I continue to regularly attend my favourite networking events; however, in 2011 we started our own quarterly networking events as a good introduction to clients to start networking. Many of our clients have never attended a networking event before, so we wanted to encourage them to try.
As it was such a great success, we will continue holding them on a quarterly basis. So if you would like to attend a friendly, informal networking evening, with scrumptious buffet at the Porsche Centre Reading, our next event is 6-8pm Tuesday 21st February 2012.
Let me know what your favourite networking meetings are, and what you look for from an event…
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