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I think it’s fair to say at the moment I’m being a serial networker. In the last month I’ve surprised myself by attending over 10 networking events.

I made a decision recently that in order to grow my business I really do have to get out there and meet more people in person. And do you know what it seems to be working AND as an added bonus I’ve really enjoyed it!

Most people I speak to absolutely hate networking, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to actually enjoy it:

1. Find Networking Events That Work For You

There are so many different sorts of networking events. So take the time to find one that appeals to you and at least you’ll want to go!

But be prepared to do some research to make that happen. I have been asking everyone I know (in person and on social media) to recommend their favourite networking events. And then I really try to ask questions to get an idea of the vibe of the event and what kind of people go to work out if it’s right for me.

As a result I’ve discovered petworking. Yes it really is a networking event with dogs – and you don’t even need to own a dog. Which I must say was a lot of fun.

Small dog on a beach at Fresh Walks.
Dogs break the ice at networking events like Freshwalks and Petworking.

I’ve also enjoyed attending a couple of insta meet ups and photo walks this month – that won’t be for everyone, but it’s perfect for me as an Instagram trainer.

And podcast club run by podcast trainer Vic Elizabeth Turnbull has been a blessing to me – not really from the point of view of trying to gain business, but it’s been fabulous for getting tips for my Going Rogue podcast and meeting other podcasters.

And as many of you know I’ve been going to Fresh Walks for years now – networking and walking in the countryside. It really is a magical way to network and form connections.

I am also choosing some less crafty, Instagrammy networking events to go too. I want to work with bigger businesses so I decided to try a Talk of Manchester Lunch and a Business Introductions networking event too. They were both really friendly fun events, with a lovely range of businesses attending including some corporate clients – which is great for me because I need to be having more conversations with those kind of businesses.

2. Embrace Your Own Awkwardness And Vulnerability

If you can own how awkward you feel (and let’s face it networking is massively awkward for everyone) – it can be a great way to connect with people at an event.

If you make a joke or a reference to how this is not something you find easy at all – it will really break the ice. Because whoever you say it to is very likely to feel relieved and agree with you! Which will start a much more genuine conversation than just trying to impress each other with your business prowess.

Another great way of getting a conversation flowing is to admit where you are struggling with your business. Again showing a little bit of vulnerability immediately makes you more relatable and will help those around you to relax. It also gives the other person the opportunity to get chatting by offering you some advice.

Read about the things I wish I’d known before starting a freelance business

3. Create And Run The Networking Event You Want To Attend

In October I started running Instacake – an event for like minded Instagram enthusiasts. I was very keen to meet other people who were into Instagram so we could share ideas and get excited about the platform. I’ve run five now, and it’s been an amazing way to build a community of my kind people. I get a lot of support and inspiration and advice from running them.

Instacake Manchester run by Easyinstamcr.
I always feel really inspired when I run Instacake Manchester.

4. Be Willing To Travel And Pay Money For The Right Networking Event

Sometimes I struggle to justify the amount money I’m spending to attend an event or the distance I’m travelling. But I can honestly say seeking out events to find people who understand my field have been worth their weight in gold. I recently drove for 4 hours to Somerset to attend a ‘Nourish and Flourish’ day at Vanessa Dennett’s barn. Not only was it a lovely day, but I got to meet people who got my world and gave me great advice.

Ladies out on a walk at the Nourish and Flourish day hosted by Simpson Sisters.
A lovely little stroll we took as part of the Nourish and Flourish day

5. My Tips For Breaking Into A Conversation At A Networking Event

Have you ever walked into a networking event where everyone is already talking to someone and it seems impossible to join in? My approach is to walk up to a group of people and I just politely ask if I can ‘gatecrash your conversation’. It always seems to work and puts a smile on people’s faces. Another way to break the ice is to just ask simple questions like ‘Have you been to this event before?’ or find the organiser and ask them to introduce you to some people.

6. Be Helpful and Generous

There’s all sorts of reasons why the best approach to a networking event is to be as helpful and generous as possible. Just try and listen out for opportunities in the conversations for offering help and support. Even if it’s just saying well done because they’ve just launched a new product. First of all because showing an interest and offering advice and support just feels good! You’ll get lots of lovely endorphins from helping people. And secondly – if you want to distract yourself from feeling nervous – being helpful and asking questions is a great way to lose your inhibitions. Finally – I think what a lovely way to be remembered. If you are helpful and positive, you’ll leave a deeper impression than if you just stick to surface level niceties.

7. It’s Perfectly Acceptable To Move Away From Your Wrong People

Knowing when to exit a conversation politely is valuable in networking.

Spend minimum time with people who don’t inspire you. I like to be polite, but I’ve realised if someone doesn’t interest me at a networking event, it’s best to keep the conversation as brief as possible. Good get outs are ‘I’m just nipping to the loo’ or ‘I’ve just seen someone I need to talk to’. Even if it feels a bit clunky, it’s worth moving on quickly, or believe me, you’ll resent having wasted your time.

I’m sure networking is something that everyone out there has a strong opinion about! I’d love to hear your thoughts about it and please do share any advice you have. Just pop over to my Instagram and send me a DM.

And if you enjoyed reading this, you might like to try The Delight of Coaching With Jen Carrington.

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