What do you get when you cross a business owner with social anxiety? You get a difficult decision when it comes to networking effectively! Networking is probably the most nerve-wracking, difficult thing to do as a business owner. It can be boring and in equal measures – terrifying, especially if you’re not a fan of meeting new people in a new environment. The trouble with that, is that networking itself is a huge deal and it is one that is going to make the difference between your business being a successful one, or being stagnant with the same clients and links over and over.

You may not like it. It may be something that induces utter fear in you, but networking has got to be done. So, to make it easier on yourself, you need to learn how you can network properly. This means doing more than offering up your business card and swapping polite, but awkward, small talk at various indoor event venues. It’s also important to remember that your networking ability can help to expand your contact list, plus, it can be fun. So, how can you network effectively without losing your nerve about dealing with new people?

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  1. It’s a two-way street. a lot of people think that networking means boring someone with all the information you can think about for your business. Actually, it’s about having a very effective conversation. Think about a first date: you get to know each other, you don’t just talk about yourself. Check out these networking questions you could ask to make your conversations effective.
  2. Think about your niche. Are you going to hold a networking event in a conference centre for the healthcare industry and then invite people from engineering? Probably not. You can only network effectively, if you’ve invited people of the right background. Ask yourself who you could invite that you already know, then see if they can each invite someone from the industry.
  3. Put yourself out there. Mingling is so important for networking. Whether you are offering around a tray of champagne and introducing yourself with alcohol, or simply ‘speed-dating’ where you swap names and companies before moving on, you need to get out there and be brave! Volunteer and attend fundraisers if you can’t hold your own event, but get out there!
  4. Get noticed. Whenever you meet someone who could be vital for your company, book in a second date. Have lunch pencilled in to discuss mutual interests in more detail. Go for social drinks. Whatever it takes – and put it on the company budget – you need to do it so that you can maximize your own exposure.
  5. Social media is your friend! Put your business on social media and add people of the same network and industry so you can find more opportunities to meet others at their own events.

Networking doesn’t have to be a sweat-inducing time. Spin it into a positive and you can make your efforts a huge success.