I’ve had some amazing networking opportunities at special events in the last month since the release of my new book From Unknown To Expert.

I went into these events with a specific networking strategy and goals. One of my goals was to get my book into the hands of some incredibly influential people, including Chris Ducker, Pat Flynn, Seth Godin and Arianna Huffington. You can see from the photo above that I achieved this goal!

But I’ve noticed when I talk to people about the power of networking many people tell me how much they dread it or how difficult they find it. I’ve even heard some people say they don’t believe networking works!

In my experience, networking has been incredibly powerful and instrumental in creating the business I have today. But just turning up to networking events isn’t enough. And it isn’t just about getting new business either.

So I’ve thought about my approach to networking and some of the strategies I’ve used to get great results from networking. Here are my thoughts on how to network like the pros:

Connect with people
Networking isn’t just about acquiring new business; it is about surrounding yourself with a support network for your life in general. I have never met anyone who said they have too many contacts!

I know that running a business can be a stressful and lonely experience at times, but with networking you learn so much about different types of businesses! I’m always fascinated to hear what is happening in the business community and have the opportunity to share my experiences and learn from others. It can be an incredibly supportive experience that reduces the isolation we so often feel in running our own businesses.

Think of networking as free personal advertising
I truly believe networking can be the most cost effective way of reaching many new potential clients. If you’re an SME with a tight marketing budget, this makes it particularly worthwhile.

While the cost of attending a lunch or event can add up, I see it as personal advertising. And let’s face it, the cost of an event or lunch will always be cheaper than advertising.

Yes, it takes time but no amount of interaction online can replace meeting people in the real world - it is so powerful for building personal relationships

Be proactive
Don’t wait for people to find you or your business. Take control of your business and find the influential people you want to connect with.

When it came to giving my book to Seth, Arianna, Pat and Chris at their different events, I set myself the intention of introducing myself before the end of the day and giving them my book. Even though I was nervous about how they might react to me giving them a copy of my book, each of them were delighted. In fact, Seth Godin wanted me to sign my copy of my book for him!

Be strategic about who you network with
From a business development perspective, it is a good idea to network with people who are your potential clients. For example if your target market is small business, then participate in groups for small business owners such as your local chamber or other small business groups related to your industry.

It is also a good idea to belong to your industry specific network - such as one run by the professional association you may belong to.

Catriona Pollard networkingGo to networking events alone
This tip might surprise you. I believe the key to good networking is to go alone. The problem with going with a friend or colleague for support is you will inevitably use the event as a catch up.

If you invite a colleague to attend with you, split up during any networking period and catch up after the event.

Build relationships even if you won’t make a sale
Effective networking is not about selling. In fact it’s not about talking. It’s about listening. A networking pro knows that networking and building relationships is about taking the time to find out about others, and from there working out if there is any synergy.

Networking pros always follow up with those they met at the event. Focus on connecting with people, not trying to get as many business cards as possible. Try setting a goal for each event to get two business cards with the invitation to contact them and arrange a coffee meeting to chat in more detail.

I hope you’re seeing now that networking is an essential element to business development. Through networking you instantly have access to a room full of people who can possibly help you grow your business. The more people who are aware of a business means the more people who will make contact when the need arise.

Fast track your journey from unknown to a recognised expert and thought leader! Buy Catriona’s book From Unknown To Expert: How to use clever PR and social media to become a recognised expert. Accelerate your personal brand with the Unknown To Expert Acceleration Pack, packed with media lists, blogger lists, blog posts and media releases formats which have generated millions of dollars in coverage, more than 73 templates and so much more. 

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