In all of the advice for small businesses (of which there is scads around at the moment – look here, and here and here…) there is generally a rec0mmendation somewhere that the key means of generating new business leads is networking. In my head networking just means meeting people and making connections; hopefully not leaving them thinking that you’re an idiot, and if possible having a mutually beneficial conversation which leaves both of you thinking you might like to work together in future. It happens spontaneously in meetings, on train journeys, in the pub, online. And there’s an element of matchmaking in it – I really love introducing people to each other if I think they could help each other out.
How did this entirely natural and civilised idea turn into Business Networking Events? It’s just speed dating for office workers – ie even less fun than normal speed dating looks and done in business suits. I have been to one of these events. It was one of the most buttock-clenchingly embarrassing evenings I’ve ever spent and I couldn’t wait to get away. I’m not sure they even work – has anyone ever walked away from a networking event with a firm lead on some work (or is it just my social ineptitude which makes me unable to do it? ) But I guess needs must, and as the outlook for small businesses gets bleaker I shall shine my shoes, brush my hair, arm myself with a sheaf of business cards and hit the networking trail. So, any advice on how to make it a) more productive and b) less painful?