Once I’d decided to start my own business towards the end of 2011, I felt that I needed to do a bit of this thing called “networking”, to see what it was all about, and hopefully pick up some useful contacts and maybe even some business.

It was early one morning that I quietly crept into my first networking event; a breakfast meeting in Cannock town centre.   I was unbelievably nervous – longing for a Harry Potter-esque invisibility cloak, praying not to be left standing on my own and yet not wanting to look like Mrs Billy No Mates.   The meeting host greeted me, gave me the good news that my first breakfast was “on the house” (they expected me to eat?!?! with these nerves!?!?!) and I was introduced to some established members of the group, made to feel very welcome and taken under their collective wing.

My first 60 second intro pitch was a bit hit and miss: my business at that time was merely an idea (I was still working part-time in a job I loathed), my presence at the networking meeting merely a fact-finding mission, but I did it.  With shaking legs and sweaty palms, I sat down and before I knew it, the meeting drew to a conclusion and I was told of dates for future meetings.  And yes, the bacon and eggs had gone down rather nicely, thank you very much!

How times change …..

I now attend 3 networking groups on a regular basis – Cannock WiRE, The Lichfield Premier Women’s Business Club and the fabulous Business and Breakfast.  It took a while to find the ones that suited me best but now that I’ve made those commitments, I am making excellent connections, new friends and much valued clients as a result of my efforts!

To anybody unsure about networking, I’d say give it a go. Shop around, take advantage of the initial “free taster meetings” and follow-up any contacts you make as soon as you can after the meeting.  People really do buy from people, and what better way to get to know new connections and get yourself known in the area, than networking.

Good luck – and please feel free to share your networking recomendations and experiences here.