Many people have a fear of networking. I was fearful of networking 'back in the day' when networking was primarily about being thrust into a space where people try and sell you something, anything they've got - even if you are not remotely in the target market. You get trapped being sold to and leave the evening feeling deflated. (PS: If the networking events you are attending are still like that then stop going!).
Thankfully we have started to realise effective networking is not about sales, it's about relationships. It's about giving more than receiving. Networking at an event is about listening. Networking after an event is about helping.
While undertaking my research for the Legacy of Anita Roddick, the power of a network has become clearer to me, as had the need for patience. Some interviews I have been trying to get for years, yes YEARS, have only just come to fruition - due to networking, the referrals that come from networking combined with persistence and patience. And as someone who learned the concept of 'hurry sickness' from Anita the 'patience' part has been hard to practice!
And this network has all been done remotely - you don't have to be physically there to be present in a network. It could be a on-line network as well.
Similarly, I have been in my new home town for 18 months, taking my time to get to know and understand the business landscape and find where I can add value. My network has been growing and my patience is starting to pay off from a business perspective. Part of it has been having the courage to just 'turn-up'. Signing on for events and activities (and actually going), being present while there, and being generous and clear about what I might be able to do for the people I meet.
The benefits of networking go beyond what potential sales might result for your small business. As well as meeting new people, (and making new friends), networking can exposed you to new ideas, new information, give you a new perspective or give you answers to questions you have been pondering. Leaving a great networking experience builds your confidence and gives you encouragement to turn up more regularly. And there is no better feeling than when you've had the opportunity to help someone or give them a new idea.
And just sometimes, sometime in the future that business card someone held on to, the connection you made through socials or LinkedIn or an on-line group, might result in a potential business opportunity or collaboration.
If you think about the word 'networking' it starts with the word 'net'. To me this implies the bigger the net - the more fish you catch and the bigger the fish you can catch - so build your net large, cast your net wide and start turning up.