Innovate UK’s essential tips for business networking

The following is a guest post by Innovate UK, the British government’s innovation agency. They are focused on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who can use new science and technology to drive economic growth.

Follow Innovate UK on Twitter: @innovateuk.

How to be a business networking pro

Business networking can be an intimidating, forced and uncomfortable experience. Despite this, some people seem to take to it like a duck to water. The truth is, networking events can be invaluable. Many business success stories can be traced back to two partners meeting whilst networking. If you want to be successful in business, then you’ve got to give these events all you’ve got. Innovate UK have put together few helpful tips that’ll help you network like a pro. We’ve included a few below.

Pick the right event

“You have to know who has the same vision to try to align with them” – Joyeeta Das, CEO Gyana Limited.

Every networking event you attend is an investment of your time and effort. Don’t waste it by going to one that isn’t appropriate to you. Research an event before you confirm your attendance. What do you want to get out of it?

  • New partner?
  • Investor?
  • Supplier?
  • New clients?
  • Customers?
  • Mentor?

Tailor your approach to suit your proposed outcomes. This step is all about giving you the best chance of achieving your goals, don’t overlook the importance of it.

Make connections online

So walking up to a stranger and talking about business isn’t your idea of fun. Everyone’s braver behind a keyboard. A great way of dispelling those initial nerves and cutting past the small-talk is by building online connections with attendees before the event. Survey the attendees online and pick a few that you want to get talking to. There’s often a pre-event buzz on social media, be vocal. It’ll make you more approachable when the event rolls around. Don’t forget, you’re not the only one who doesn’t enjoy talking to strangers.

Take advantage of opportunities at the event

“Preparation for networking events is crucial to ensure you maximise your time and opportunities” – Andrew Kent, Senior Innovation Adviser at Enterprise Europe Network.

Don’t get ahead of yourself at the event. You’re not there to sell yourself, you’re there to network. Listen first and talk about yourself only when it’s relevant. Having said this, you never know who you might meet. It’s important to always have an elevator pitch up your sleeve ready for when you may need it. Remain visible online throughout the event by tweeting using the designated hashtags.

Follow Up with Your Contacts

It’s especially important to follow up immediately after the event. If you were given any actionable points by your connections, be sure to do these as soon as you can. Call, email and connect with people you met on social media. Writing a blog is a great way to stay on the radar of influencers. Once everything’s calmed down, evaluate your attendance. Was it worth it? Learn from the event and begin planning your next one.

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Alternatively, you can follow @InnovateUK on Twitter.

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