You have to remember that relationships are quite simply vital for business success. Networking is therefore critical whether you are starting up or have been running a business for years.

1. People like doing business in person, but don’t over sell yourself. Don’t go there with the intention of giving out as many business cards as possible this is not the objective of networking. If you show a genuine interest in someone they are more likely to ask for your business card and pass on your details to prospective clients.

2. Networking is all about learning from other people who have knowledge or experience of similar things to you. You must be an active participant in order to get the most out of networking events so get involved as much as you can. Help others by giving them contacts and sharing your knowledge even if it’s just about a book you’ve read or a film you’ve seen that you think they might be interested in.

3. You must get over any initial nerves or shyness and approach people and introduce yourself. If you can’t think of something to say in a networking situation, ask questions and be a good listener instead. Try and open up the conversation, ask people about any hobbies they have outside work as this can highlight common interests and puts people at their ease. Make sure that you say something about yourself too as people don’t like to feel that they are being interrogated.

4. Know your strengths. Write or review your elevator speech before you go, so when people ask you what you do, your reply is concise, accurate and interesting. A good elevator pitch can break the ice and get a conversation started.

5. If you arrange to contact someone after the event, make sure that you do it as soon as possible and always follow up with a few people the next day by a phone call or an email whether it’s just to thank them for a contact or some useful information they gave you. This encourages them to remember you.

6. Don’t drink too much! Networking events often have alcohol on offer but even if you are nervous, try not to drink too much to calm your nerves. Remember that you are trying to give a good impression of your business. It can also be very tricky trying to juggle a glass while trying to shake someone’s hand or exchange business cards.

7. Build relationships with your network – turning up once is not enough. When other members of your network know, like, and trust you, they are more likely to buy from you or recommend you. Don’t just network with business people - if you are passionate about a hobby, join a group for that hobby – clients can come from anything that you are passionate about.

"He who hesitates is lost".

Author's Bio: 

Anne Galloway, of Power-to-Change, is a careers coach and small business consultant who believes that work can and should be creative, meaningful and enjoyable. Her specialities include assisting clients find the 'right' career for them and showing them how to sell themselves confidently on a CV and at interviews, and taking an independent view of business systems and procedures and developing strategies to increase sales and revenue. Anne is regularly sought out as valuable sounding board due to her ability to highlight risk in order to take control and reduce it. Her first book, 'Your Future - A practical guide to action' was published in 2011.