AUTUMN 2023 NETWORKING Learning how to make the most of networking opportunities could benefit you and your business Networking provides a platform for businesspeople to build connections for growth and development, professionally and personally. The rise in virtual networking means there are now even more opportunities to meet fellow entrepreneurs, with events often free to attend, but you need to make the most of these. Here are 10 tips for doing just that: 1. Have a strategy: think about what you want to achieve raise your company profile; gain new contacts; learn new skills; generate referrals? If you are new to networking, visit as many events as possible, talk to regulars, and find out if the group fits with your strategy before making a regular commitment. 2. Pitch perfect: create a 60-second elevator pitch that describes your business and its objectives clearly and concisely. Include your expertise and unique selling point, and be memorable. Bring props, marketing materials and business cards, quote testimonials from satisfied customers, and show how your product or service has helped others. You might not immediately get business from an event, but one person you speak to might open doors 3. Get out of your comfort zone: networking is all about meeting people outside your circle. Scan the room for those you have yet to meet and create an opportunity for them to join the conversation. Look out for new people a friendly introduction goes a long way. 4. Keep attending: it takes a while to build trust within a group. Attend regularly, help others, and have an effective follow-up. You might not immediately get business from an event, but one person you speak to might open doors. 5. Listen: take an interest in others and find out what they want to achieve from the meeting. Ask open-ended questions, such as how, who and why this will help open up discussions and show your interest. You never know; their objectives may match yours or you may be able to help them through your network connections. 6. Follow up: be pro-active in follow-ups. Use social media to connect with people you have met: LinkedIn is the most popular platform for this. Having separate catch-ups with key individuals outside of the session will help avoid getting into lengthy conversations during the event that may prevent you from meeting other people. 7. Make referrals or introductions: always provide the person you are introducing or referring with a way of getting in touch with the contact directly. If you are introduced or recommended by someone, keep them up to date with the outcome. If it was successful, thank them publicly at the next meeting, as this demonstrates to others that the group is working, and can help build your and the referrers credibility within the network. 8. Measure: are you achieving your objectives? How much business is generated through this activity? Compare your findings against the cost of investments and remember to factor in your own cost per hour. 9. Networking etiquette: never just push your business card or leaflets into peoples hands. A hard sell in this type of environment usually isnt effective and doesnt give a good first impression. Networking is all about helping others. 10. Dress to impress: it doesnt have to be businesswear just appropriate, clean attire for your line of work. A name badge just below your right shoulder will help others approach you easily and avoid any awkwardness in having to recall your name. Shake hands, make eye contact, smile, and ensure your body language is open and friendly. The FSB runs a number of virtual and in-person networking events across the UK, which are open to FSB members and non-members. Credit: Karen Woolley, development manager, Federation of Small Businesses Image: iStock.com / gmast3r Anonymous Hotline For further information, please contact your local Trading Standards Service For up-to-date news stories and information, follow us on 0300 303 2636 Is your sector being undermined by unscrupulous traders operating outside the law? Report them via Trading Standards Anonymous Hotline or online and help level the playing field for honest businesses.