Networking can be a totally new concept to many new business owners, many of whom have never attended a networking meeting before (or perhaps haven’t even heard of networking before!)

Even if you have never attended a networking meeting before, don’t be put off by the idea of being in a room with lots of strangers! Networking is a key part of making connections, sourcing new clients, building your confidence and gaining knowledge and advice.

If you are new to networking and want to know more about it, take a look at some networking FAQs below, answered by our Business Networking Resident Expert Debbie Gilbert:

1. Where could I find which networking groups are near me?

Best to start with Google and you could also ask in local Facebook business groups. Also check out www.findnetworkingevents.co.uk and Eventbrite and Meet up

2. How would I make sure I find the most suitable networking group for myself?

Consider your time, your budget and where you think you will meet businesses who have the most synergy with you and your business.

Some groups are monthly, some weekly, some bi-weekly and some are ad hoc.

Some have memberships and a rule that you must attend and some are just open coffee mornings

3. What’s the differences between going to an all gender or mixed gender networking group?

The female only networking vibe is very different- more supportive and nurturing. I have found the mixed groups to be more sales focussed. But this doesn’t apply to all. The important thing is when you go along the first time, trust your gut and whether you feel you will fit in.

4. How much money should I budget to spend on a networking membership?

This depends on your business type and where are you with the stage of your business. New businesses need to get known so you might find you spend more in the first year or so.

It also depends on what group you attend. Weekly breakfasts with BNI will cost around £1200 a year, monthly groups around £500 a year. Coffee mornings can be just £5 a meeting.

So it can vary – but around £1500 in a year would see results.

5. Should I expect to travel to a networking group if I don’t live in a town or city?

Yes as many rural areas are not served with networking groups. If there is enough businesses in a rural area you could always start a group!

6. How does networking benefit someone in a business?

Leads, referrals, support, awareness and business advice. Plus you get to know others in your area in the same situation as you.

7. What should I expect from my first networking meeting?

Make sure you have spoken to the organiser before the event. Ask to be introduced to others when you arrive. And don’t expect business leads to come flooding your way – it wont. Its about getting to know people and starting to build relationships. Make sure you have thought about your introduction, have some cards or literature to give out if possible.

8. What would be a good conversation starter when speaking to people I don’t know?

The news, the weather, the journey to the venue!

9. What are your top tips for my first networking meeting if I get nervous?

Everyone at that meeting would have been a first timer once. So just think of it as a route to getting to know people, just like a first day at work. Don’t talk over people, listen and ask others lots of questions.

10. How long does a networking meeting last?

Most are around 2 hours.

11. What are your top tips for talking to people I don’t know and don’t know me?

Just relax and be yourself.

12. How should I introduce myself at the meetings?

With your name! If you know you have to do a one minute about your business just make sure you are clear and concise, don’t waffle or be to over salesy.

13. I work as part of a team- should we take it in turns to go networking so we all get the chance to go, or should just one of us consistently go so that there is one familiar face from our business?

Consistency is the key, its best to split the groups so one person focuses on each group.

 

Article authored by Debbie Gilbert, Business Networking Resident Expert at The Outsourcing Way