How To Guide: how to network while not doing networking

Last week the How to Guide talked about connecting and its powerful influence on business. For many connecting is networking – a term that can be a double edged sword.

What do you think about when you see or hear the word networking? Your image might be suited people in a conference room at a very early time of the morning. Maybe you image is smartly dressed folks in a hotel bar doing drinks?For many it is a formal affair with business cards in a bowl, mints on the table and 60 second speeches.

This is totally fine if you love to work in a formal situation like that – many of these groups are hugely successful at helping people find new business.

However, what if you are an indie business owner who by your very nature is a little unconventional? What if you have left the corporate world and have developed an allergy for suited, early morning meetings in hotel meeting rooms? What if you have set up a business with small children about your home and early mornings are a no no. Perhaps you became an indie business owner because of stress and frankly – who needs the pressure of a 60 second speech at 7am?

Networking is powerful and important but it is, after all, simply humans gathering and connecting. Some of the best outcomes to networking come when you are not networking at all. Often the best collaborations and business partnerships come along by accident or after a long period of just getting to know someone.

So how can you network while doing networking? Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Be a customer. It sounds super simple and it is! If you want to work with or find out more about a business – become a potential customer. Visit their shop, make an enquiry on their website or visit their stall. Conversations can emerge, knowledge can be shared and introductions can be made.
  • Be a match maker. If you come across a business and think that they would have great synergy with someone you know – introduce them by email. It is a great way to gather people together and people are more likely to return the favour. Personal, bespoke and pressure free.
  • Go online to discover and chat with fellow business owners. You might think that this is just chatting but it is so much more. You are relaxed, you can search about their website for information and you can fit it in around your other commitments. You would be surprised to know that some of our best collaborations started on Twitter.
  • Follow up your chats, emails and connections with a simple coffee in a local indie cafe. Invite a few people or just one or two. Don’t set an agenda or presume a deal, but see how the conversation develops. Any work will come easily in this relaxed atmosphere.
  • Find non networky networks that suit you better. There are networks out there (including Simply Great Britain’s) that do things differently. Maybe they are at better times of the day for you or may they don’t require a suit. It could be that a gathering is sector specific like women only, creatives only or photographers only would feel more comfortable or a good starting point.

What is you experience of networking? What is your favourite type of networking? join the conversation and let us know in the Facebook group. Otherwise, book a Meet Up with us – upcoming ones are a Summer lunch with FREE mini workshop in July or a Wine Tasting evening with a difference in September!