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How to Survive as a Networking Newbie

Dec 12, 2007
If you're just starting out in business, you've probably already been told by a number of people that Networking is an essential activity to get involved in. It's a great piece of advice and, even though it might fill you with absolute dread, it will provide a huge number of business contacts. Whilst not all of these will be directly relevant to you and your own business, referrals to third parties happen all the time and this really is the whole point to getting involved in Networking.

Even though I've only recently set up my own business as a Virtual Assistant, it had been in the pipeline for a long time, and one of things I knew I had to face up to was the fact that I'd have to put myself out and about on the Networking circuit. I can tell you that, out of all the hurdles associated with setting up a new business, the Networking hurdle was my most feared. I'm not a natural Sales Person but I am a natural talker - and the more events I've attended, the more I've realised that being able to talk is the only skill you need. Oh yes, and a stack of business cards!

In order to survive as a Networking Newbie, I'd recommend the following tips:

Even if you're feeling completely overwhelmed, wear a smile. It will attract other people towards you and instantly boost your confidence.

Approach other people standing on their own.
Remember - you're not the only one feeling awkward. They're also more than likely to be as nervous as you are.

Extend a firm handshake.
It gives the impression that you're confident and comfortable in the situation and you definitely mean business.

Always try and ask about your new contact first.
This will demonstrate that you're not a selfish Networker because you're showing that you're more interested in the other person than in talking about yourself.

Be a good listener.
Even if you're talking to someone whose business is of no direct relevance to your own, appreciate that you're all there for the same reason.

Keep your own business statement brief.
Accompany your verbal statement with your business card and direct people to your website for more detailed information. Keeping it brief at the beginning enables others to ask specific questions which you can then answer in as much depth as is required.

Be polite and honest.
You will make a good impression with many new contacts because they remember your friendly personality and honesty, not necessarily what line of business you're in.

Acknowledge the contacts you've made.
Always follow a Networking event by sending a brief two-line email to every contact you've made along the following lines: "nice to meet you, added your details to my database, hope to see you at future events". Nothing more is needed - unless, of course, potential business was discussed at the event with one or more individuals. Then a more personalised message is called for.

So, all in all, it doesn't have to be that scary. By implementing some - if not all - of the above tips, you can actually look forward to attending future events free from anxieties.

So, what are you waiting for? Go on, give it a go!
About the Author
Helen Byrne is a UK-based Virtual Office Assistant and Owner of Virtualoso - Virtual Office Solutions Online (http://www.virtualoso.info). In order to promote the concept of Virtual Assistance to a wider audience, particularly in the UK, Helen also created http://www.PA-as-you-go.com as a simple introduction to the business.
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