Don’t be shy when it comes to networking

By Shirley Hermiston, business support manager

Newcastle UniversityAs a new business, it’s important to get your name out there. If you have been working with one of our business advisers here at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), you have probably written your business plan and considered the various ways to promote your business.

A small budget can be an issue for many businesses just starting out, so discussing how you will market the business is very important. Networking is seen by many as one of the most effective ways to sell, however the aim should not just be about the opportunity to sell your products/services.

To some people, the thought of walking in to a room full of people can be terrifying. But as daunting as it seems, attending a networking event can get you in front of your potential customers for little, or even sometimes no cost at all. If you are new to networking, here are a few tips to get you started.

Choose an event that suits you. You will come across many networking events and organisations across the North East and it can be difficult to choose between them. Some meet weekly, others monthly, so attending them all could be very time consuming. If your time is limited, attend a few and then be selective. Choose events that are more relevant to your business.

Arrive early. If it is your first time networking or attending a particular event, you may be feeling a little nervous. The last thing you want to do is arrive late and have to walk into a room full of people who are already deep in conversation with one another. It will give you the chance to chat to the organiser who will make you feel comfortable and put you at ease. A good organiser will make sure you are not stood on your own so don’t be afraid to approach them.

Don’t think of it as a selling pitch. Yes you are attending to promote yourself and your business, but nobody in attendance wants to listen to someone push their products/services on to them. Networking is about building trustworthy relationships and collaboration. Showing an interest in someone else and listening may be a lot more beneficial to you than you think. Remember don’t judge the success of the event on whether you got a sale, this can take time.

Approach someone who is stood on their own. Remember everyone is in the same situation as you so they may not feel comfortable approaching you. Introduce yourself and take an interest.

The BIC are fortunate enough to welcome a variety of networking organisations who hold regular events here, including The Mussel Club, The Inspire Network and Sunderland Business Network. These are friendly and informal events and will always welcome new faces.

If you are new to networking and currently working with one of our business advisers, we will happily meet you at one of the events hosted at the BIC, and help make those first introductions.

For more information on self-employment or networking events at the BIC, call 0191 516 6149.

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