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Top tips for successful networking

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:19 01 July 2010

By Anne Francis, coach for Biz Fizz

Top tips for successful networking

The business coach

Anne Francis, coach for Biz Fizz

Networking has long been a passion of mine - the wonderful feeling that comes when a lasting connection is made with a person who was unknown before.

One dictionary definition of networking says: “A network is an interaction with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's prospects.”

There are many myths about business networking. It's most definitely not just about selling to the participants, it's about building quality relationships with people who have their own personal and professional networks, who may at some time require your goods or services.

Remember we buy from people we like and trust, people we deem to be both reliable and honest.

Norwich has many networking groups that range in formality and focus. A few of my favourites include the Net Walking group which visits places within Norwich for a short walk, culminating in a visit to a local eatery and the Antidote Network which is famous for hosting speed networking events specially designed to help people get used to moving from one person to another.

Other professional and friendly networks include the business supper club at The Theatre Royal, the Norfolk Network and the Norfolk Business Club.

Some useful tips for networking:

Set achievable, measurable goals before the event, for example giving away five business cards and speak to three people I don't know.

Make contact with someone who belongs to the network before the event so they know you are coming and that you are new to networking.

If you go with a colleague, business/life partner or friend decide to separate during the event. There is a tendency to stay where you are comfortable and speak to your friend rather than make new connections.

Be curious about the people you meet. What do they enjoy most about their business? How did they start?

The normal social rules around leaving people to move to another person are relaxed during business networking events. Everyone is there to meet as many people as possible. It is unspoken that you may at any time during a conversation excuse yourself to speak to someone else. Practise saying “well it was very interesting to meet you, enjoy the rest of the evening and see you again.” Exchange cards and move on.

Keep your business cards in one pocket and other people's in another. Thus avoiding the card fumble.

Choose networking events you will get the most out of. Some prefer less formal events like Coffee at Caistor, others the structure and discipline of, for example, BNI.

Practise your concise introduction. Just a couple of sentences introducing your name, business name and product or service are all that is needed to start the conversation.

Relax, be yourself, enjoy getting to know people and remember everyone had to start somewhere and were probably just as nervous as you to start with. It gets easier.

Do you have a question for our panel of experts? Email Evening News senior business writer Sam Williams at sam.williams@archant.co.uk.

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