How to benefit from networking In the world of small business, ‘networking’ can be an emotive word. A lot of us fear it because we’ve never done it. Some of us avoid it because we’ve had one or two bad experiences. But networking is a legitimate way of increasing your reach as a professional, and making connections with other businesspeople often leads to referrals that can help with business growth. That’s why, as part of your business development planning, you should actively look for suitable networking opportunities. Here’s how to make the most of them:?Identify networking events. Not all will be relevant, but think about your business goals and what you want to get out of the event. Networking is not always a sale pitch, so decide on your reason for attending – for example, to find funding, recruit new staff, identify new suppliers or connect with individuals who share similar challenges.?Commit. Once you’ve found the right events, make sure you commit to going. Book the time out in your diary, research who is going and get your introduction ‘elevator pitch’ honed down to something snappy and engaging.Prepare. Take business cards, look up the travel and parking arrangements and double-check the time. Ensure you’re arriving with a cool head, rather than late and unprepared. ?Be brave. Take a look at the delegate list and ensure you’re getting the chance to speak to the people you want to get to know. Sometimes the event organisers will help with introductions - otherwise just bite the bullet and introduce yourself. ?Follow up. Once the event has finished, make sure you’re contacting the people you met. Email, connect on LinkedIn or make a follow-up call. These are great ways to build on new business relationships. Keep the contact going. Think of an appealing way to keep the contact going with those prospects you feel you want to nurture. You could consider a free 15-minute consultation where you give advice based on your area of expertise, for example, or if you’re a web designer you could offer to look over their website and give your feedback free of charge. Or maybe you could offer to set up a sub-group of like-minded individuals for further networking.It’s important to make a lasting impression on the new people you meet, and that includes leaving them with something to remember you by. Make sure you present the right image from the start, with a great business card and some flyers that explain what you do. If you need help with logo design, layout and print, just ask the team at your local MBE.However you decide to do it, good luck, and good networking!