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It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, but I happened to find this very interesting article by Shawn Forno about what to take when attending a conference. It’s USA-centric, but that doesn’t mean the advice isn’t applicable to business people in the UK.

The advice isn’t only relevant for attending multi-day conferences. It’s also useful for attending single-day events such as seminars or workshops.

As with everything, preparation is the key and this gentleman has got it sussed! I’ve worked for a number of national and international businesses and I know that the quality of the pre-conference groundwork is vital for success.

Research into your target businesses is another necessity but from a practical point of view, these hints are excellent – in fact some are invaluable and might just help you make that critical connection you’ve been hoping for!

Click here for the article.

Have a look and tweak it to fit with your own ways of doing things.

Good luck and enjoy your next event!

Networking is essential to a successful business. But to get the best out of it, you have to be prepared to work at it.

Here are my ten top networking tips:

1  Do your research
What is the group about?  Does it have a theme?  What businesses are likely to be there?  Are there positive comments about it online?  If you can’t see a delegate list when you arrive, ask whether the organiser can email you one afterwards.

2  Turn up
Yes, very obvious but if you’re not there …

3  Dive in
Arriving at a new networking group for the first time can be intimidating, but don’t be put off.  Everyone has been a newcomer at some stage.  Chances are someone will take pity and introduce you around.

4  Bring business cards
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve presented my card and the other person said “Ooh, I don’t have one at the moment, they’re at the printer”.  This looks especially amateurish if you’re a new business.  Prepare for the event.  (Moo Cards have a fast turnaround for small quantities if you’re still finalising your design.)

5  Have your cards where you can find them
It’s awkward for the other person if you hand them your drink and then dive into your handbag/man bag/wallet for five minutes looking for your business card.  Keep a handful in your jacket/trouser pocket or outer pocket of your bag.

6  Keep the other person's card somewhere safe
Put the cards you receive in a different place to your own.  That way you don’t pull someone else’s card out when intending to present your own.  Immediately after the event, make a note on each person’s card: what you talked about, where you met them and whether follow-up is required.

7  Move on
You are not here to find a friend for life.  If you click with someone, make an appointment to meet for coffee to discuss further business. Then continue to circulate.

8  Look out for the Enabler
There’s always someone in a networking group who excels at putting businesses in touch with each other.  Get an introduction to him or her. Better still, once you’ve been a few times, do it yourself.  People will gravitate towards you.

9  Be assertive
Know what you want out of the group before you go in.  Don’t be shy about raising it in conversation.  At the same time, find out about the other person’s business and what they want to achieve.  Remember, don’t just sell, sell, sell.

10  Enjoy yourself
You’re in a group of like-minded people who want to meet other business people.  Relax.  If you’re enjoying yourself, it will show and other people will enjoy talking to you.

UPDATED on 6 August 2018

Networking is a useful and very important part of running a business.  It can also be very enjoyable.  In South Lakeland and the surrounding area, we are lucky that there is a number of networking groups, some of which it has been my pleasure to attend.  It may be a cliché to say that people do business with those who they like and trust but, in this case, it is based on a fundamental truth.  Meeting people and enabling them to put a face to your business, is far more beneficial than leaflet drops or advertisements.

Here are some of the networking groups I've attended. Why not come along and say hello?

LA23-NET– takes place on the first Wednesday of every month from 5.30pm to 8pm.  The venue recently moved from the Belsfield to Windermere Works.  The payment of £14.50 includes drinks and a meal.

LBN – aka Lakeland Businesswomen’s Network.  This (as the title suggests) is for women only and takes place every third Thursday of the month; the times rotate between mornings and evenings to give all businesses the opportunity to attend.  It’s £5 a meeting for non-members (3-visit limit) and £50 for an annual subscription.

Last Thursday of the Month – this one actually takes place in Lancaster, but is a very high-energy and fun networking event.  The venue is The Sphere, the excellent offshoot of Paulo Gianni’s in New Street. It starts about 5.30pm and lasts 'till about 8pm.

Bay Business Network – this one’s also located in Lancashire, but is easily reached from South Lakes as it’s just outside Carnforth in the Longlands Hotel, Tewitfield.  It's a breakfast meeting, starting at 7.30am.  If you contact Marcus Pomfret via their website, I'm sure he'll invite you for a visit.  They do limit the number of members and business-types, but you never know your luck!