It’s no secret that strong networking skills are an essential component of any entrepreneurs’ skill set. The ability to network effectively can make the difference between leaving an event having laid the foundation for future relationships, or with nothing. With a limited amount of time and a room full of potential contacts, it’s important to have a strategy.
With this in mind, Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, have brought us their 4-step guide to becoming an effective networker:
By preparing for each networking event in advance, you can maximise your chances of coming away from events with valuable contacts. Join the pre-event online buzz and make contact with key people you’d like to talk to. Key to this stage, in the digital era, is ensuring that your company’s website and online social media presence is reflective of your brand’s values, something you should address in the early stages of your company formation process. If you’re talking to someone who will be attending the event, they will most likely look your business up beforehand, in order to assess how beneficial a contact you’d be.
Your “elevator pitch”
The next step is to prepare your “elevator pitch”, for when you’re asked about your business. Get right to the point: your pitch should be explain what problem your business solves and how. Convey how you are uniquely qualified to offer that solution. If you’ve worked with big brands, don’t be afraid to mention this, as it will boost your credibility. Keep it natural: your pitch should be reflective of your personality – no one wants to talk to a robot.
Once you’ve exchanged contact details, the final step is to leave a business card. Don’t be tempted to skip this stage of company formation: having a professional-looking business card will help you establish credibility. You may be in the throes of start-up chaos, but if you’ve taken the time to present yourself professionally, it shows that you take yourself and your business seriously, making other people more likely to do the same.
Make contact with the people you spoke to soon after the event; an email, text, or message on social media shortly after the event is far more likely to develop organically into a productive connection than if you leave it until weeks later. Always email from your company’s business account, not your personal one. Following up soon after the event, even if there doesn’t appear to be any immediate gain, will show that you’re sincere. By contrast, not contacting people until you actually need their services will put them off.
For budding entrepreneurs, networking events can be daunting. Faced with a room full of experts, entrepreneurs and investors, you may be tempted to go all-out, or hide in a corner, depending on your personality. But with strategic planning and careful follow-up, you can turn these events into a chance to expand your network and help your business thrive.
At The Company Warehouse, we’ve helped thousands of new businesses get started. We provide help with company formation, accounts and marketing. If you have any questions about starting a business, register with us, or give us a call on 0800 082 8727.