Blog - networking - vintage painting of three women

When I returned from exile in dampest Cumbria to the drier climes of North Yorkshire I needed to build new contacts. Rather nervously I Googled ‘Yorkshire networking’ and dived in. Here are some networking event tips to shake off that ‘first day at school’ vibe and enjoy them.

Caffeine first

There is an unspoken rule of Thou Shalt Not Accost Until After The First Sip. You can just about get away with chatting while in the process of assembling a cuppa, but not before.

Stand out from the crowd

Help your fellow delegates by wearing something distinctive, such as a bright colour. Why?

Delegate you've spoken to: Oh, you should talk to that copywriter over there.
Potential client: Can you point her out?
Delegate you've spoken to: Yes, she's wearing a black suit... Oh, like half the people here.

For the record, I usually wear Ink Gardener colours like blue, purple or green, often with a flowery necklace. The Queen of on-brand dressing though is visual display trainer Helen from Made You Look Made You Stare.

What to do if you’re not a kangaroo

I swear some networkers are marsupials, magicking up business cards from unseen pouches. If you’re a mere mortal like me, remember to wear something with pockets. Have one pocket full of your own cards and an empty one to stash the ones you collect. Try not to mix them up.

Breaking the ice

OK, take a deep breath and remember everyone is here for a reason. I look for someone who is by themselves, put on my best ‘jazz hands’ smile and say “Hello, I’m Helen!”

Listen to everyone

The person you end up talking to may never buy your product. But chances are they know someone who will.

The very astute and welcoming Julie Isherwood from AGC Print Consultants explained this to me early on. As she specialises in printing legal casework there wasn’t an obvious link between us. But she’s invited me to another networking event and in the future I may have clients who would welcome her help.

Don’t be card-happy. Wait to be asked.

I was so enamoured of my new business cards, I was happily handing them out as if they were confetti. Apparently though you should wait until someone asks for your card. That way they’re someone who has expressed an interest and may contact you, rather than somebody who has simply tolerated your over-enthusiasm.

Only hand out your own details

Sometimes after an event, I look through the cards and wonder “Who is that?” These are usually new starters who have inherited their predecessor’s business cards. But I’m bad with names. It confuses me if I read Gunther, but could swear I was talking to a Mike.

It looks messy if you scribble on a new email or phone number. Just type your details on a plain sheet of paper, or get some temporary cards made. I highly recommend moo.com (and this link gets you 10% off).

Have an exit strategy

Don’t just stick with the same people, however comforting it is. I’m still working on this myself. A straightforward “That was really interesting. I’m so glad we’ve had a chance to talk. Enjoy the rest of the day/have a good journey back!” is helpful.

If you find leaving difficult, tell a white lie and say you need to get another drink/make a phone call/check on the car parking. Yes, it’s a social event, but remember you’re there for your business too.

Write your thank you letters

One Chamber of Commerce member told me he sends actual thank you cards to people he’s met at networking events. However most people I come across only have an email. Just make sure you email them quickly.

Or you could send a shout-out tweet which includes the Twitter tags of the people you’ve enjoyed talking to. Although I do love the idea of those actual cards. Maybe delivered by a footman…

The big secret

I dreaded the thought of networking, but really it’s just chatting. The more I go to events, the more I realise that there are lots of friendly entrepreneurs and business owners who just want to chat without being ‘sales-ey’. If you see me at an event, do pop over and say hello!

Networking events near York in North Yorkshire

If you’re a copywriter, I run York Copywriters’ Coffee every few months if you’d like to meet your tribe. It’s very laid-back and it would be great to meet you!

Many of the following allow you to go as a guest to a couple of events to see if they’re for you before joining:

Prices correct as of August 2015.

About the author

Helen Reynolds is an experienced web content writer who loves to sow Google-friendly content and social media joy. She can even ‘move the beehive’ of web content from your old website to your new one.