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.