I shared a live last week on Facebook revealing just how little I have liked networking events over the years. It takes a lot of courage and self belief to walk into a room full of people you don’t know and say hello! Oh and I never remember my business cards!! It is something I have grown to enjoy. Being a Builder’s Wife has been a lonely journey at times, finding a group of people who understood the challenges I’ve faced has been important. Let’s have a look at some networking tips for small business, so that you can use this tool to help grow your business too.
Networking Tips For Small Business
Let’s start with the tools you will need to ensure you and your business get the most out of your networking experience, business cards! A great business card is a brilliant introduction tool, that hopefully leaves a lasting impression. On a basic level it should contain your name, your business name and your contact information. Great business cards can become a talking point, so don’t be afraid to get creative with them.
I recently was the recipient of a carpenters business card that was made out of wood, so clever and it and therefor he, stuck in my mind. Find a way for your business card to stand out from the others, look at options like thicker card stock, including your photo or a quote, something to stop it looking like all the others!
My best suggestion for someone new to networking, is to start small. Find a chapter of a local industry group that meets and start there. Alternatively attend an industry function that you know you’ll be seated for, say a lunch or a dinner. That way you can start networking with the people at your table rather than a whole room of people.
You’ll find most people at these events will have been before and can help you on your first time. Long time networkers are fantastic at facilitating conversations and asking the right questions to ensure you connect well.
Alternatively why not invite someone you admire for a coffee? You’ll be pleasantly surprised how often someone is happy to make time for a coffee and a chat. Networking can be done on any scale, big, small or tiny!
The best tip I was ever given was to be sure that you have a passage of conversation prepared for those first meetings. For example I like to share how The Builder’s Wife came to be, because it’s a different journey to the one so many in construction have taken and likely to be memorable.
Whatever your passage of conversation, have an idea of what you can say about your business and how you came to be at the event. Don’t be afraid to share your vulnerabilities! I’ve had much sucess with sharing that I felt nervous, most people are lovely and very much want you to be comfortable. Likewise, if you see someone new at an event, be sure to introduce yourself, and never leave someone standing alone.
Networking is as much about sharing your story as it is listening to others. Don’t just listen, but really hear what someone is telling you, that leads to connections being formed. I have met some amazing people at the events I have attended, who I still talk to from time to time today, all because I listened to their story and was able to find a way to connect through our similar vulnerabilities or challenges.
Have conversations that matter, speak about what you are passionate about, for me that has been mental health for tradies and their partners. It has led to such informative conversations and true connections with industry leaders I am now able to call my friends.
Fake It Till You Make It
Self confidence doesn’t come easy, but you can pretend. Pause before you walk in the door, take a deep breath and smile. When you enter a room smiling, people will want to know who you are and why you are smiling. You’ve already let your guard down and look approachable, from there you may need a little extra courage to say hello to the first person, but from there you’ve got it.
I’m not going to lie, for many of us it’s really hard to get networking, there are thousands of excuses to be made, but I do promise the result is better business and a more connected life. Please, please, PLEASE if you don’t head out to events, promise to try one before the end of the year. Join some Facebook groups and get networking in there, head to a local meet up, or even try organising one yourself, you will thank yourself for it!
You can join our Tradies in Business networking business group on Facebook here.
Are you a fan of networking? Been to a meet up recently?