In my last blog we talked about how small and medium-sized businesses can benefit significantly from business networking and the reasons why you should get involved. It’s time to look at how you should network; how to engage people effectively; the do’s, the don’t’s and the general networking etiquette amongst business professionals.

If done incorrectly, networking can have an adverse effect when it comes to building your reputation. And, although you need to experiment with what works for you personally, having a basic understanding of what’s expected at such events will give you a sound base, on which you can build your personal networking style.

As with most things in life, preparation is key to success. You should be checking out the websites, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles of the people also attending. Look out for any job promotions or other business changes that you can easily drop into conversation. Taking the time to research, then congratulate someone on a promotion will go down very well indeed.

Always organise your outfit before you hit the hay on the eve of the event. If you don’t, (and you’re not super-organised having every item of clothing freshly washed, ironed and ready for you to wear) you’ll feel flustered come morning. Not a great start to your day. Preparing the night before will also give you chance to think about your outfit so you can dress to suit the event type.

Plan to arrive at the start. It’s tempting to slip in once proceedings have begun but you will instantly regret this. Why? Because if you turn up late, you’ll have to interrupt and try to join other networkers that are deep in conversation – this is tricky. Always be one of the first to arrive. This way you’ll have chance to speak to the host and make a few connections before things get busy.

If you’d prefer not to be on your own, arrange to take someone along with you. It makes sense to come as a pair and it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the host if you can extend the invitation to a colleague, or even just a friend. This way you’ll always have someone to talk to when you’re not conversing with the other attendees.

I’ve organised numerous networking events and from my experience I can tell you that, even if you don’t come along, there’s still a way to make a bad impression. Agreeing to be there and not turning up. This makes it difficult for the host to estimate and therefore invite the correct number of people. I get it, you’re busy – we all are. But if you find yourself unable to make an event, be considerate and drop the host a quick email to let them know.

So we’ve looked at how to prepare for attending a business networking event, in the next blog we’ll cover how to engage effectively during these events.

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