Running a small business opens doors to networking. Two weeks ago, we attended our first Business Expo in Chessington. I have to admit that I was debating whether this was a better use of my time than being in the office dealing with my clients. However, I was amazed at how much fun these events are and how much I took away from it.

The great thing about networking at events is that you have the opportunity to make contact with many like-minded people. Yes, social media is essential, but with online traffic increasing makes it even more difficult to stand out from the crowd. I sometimes feel like a 5-year-old child jumping up at the sweet counter while being swamped by the older kids.

Our company is a small to medium business (SME) at the moment. As it grows, I’ll consider every medium possible in order to be seen and heard. Personally, I prefer the old-fashioned way. Face-to-face networking. This feels natural; it’s a personal approach and you gain the opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the people that you meet. Eye contact and a smile go a long way!

Here’s a few key points I took from the event.

Don’t forget your business card!

We remembered our business cards, but I was running low towards the end of the day after dishing so many out in a speed-networking session. I didn’t envisage handing so many out, so make sure you are stocked up!

Don’t oversell

You’ll come into contact with a lot of people at these events, and it’s tempting to start selling your services immediately. However, if you begin over-selling you’re likely to see the eyes of the person you are speaking to start to glaze over. These events are about showcasing your products. If you have your own stall do something fun to grab people’s attention. Run a competition which encourages them to interact and, wherever possible, be creative. This will help you to engage more naturally and leave a lasting personal impression. Then when you get in touch you won’t just be another random email or cold-caller, lost in the white noise.

Take an interest in people

When meeting new people it is often easy to start talking about yourself and forget about who is in front of you. Take an interest in them. Don’t be quick to judge or dismiss people based on their apparent value to your business. You might not think you will get a lead from a local cleaning company, but they might just know someone that needs your service. Try to keep an open mind.

Make contact

After the event you will head home with a bag of goodies and lots of business cards. Be sure to follow up and make connections as quickly as possible. Connecting on LinkedIn is quick and easy. Send them a quick message and follow-up with an email. Having run a competition, as mentioned above, you now have the perfect opportunity to make contact.

Most importantly, enjoy the event. There was a van at our event giving out free prosecco, which helped everyone to relax a little! Go with an open mind. I am sure that you will not regret taking that day out of the office. And you’ll come back with an army of new contacts, who will prove to be of great benefit to the development of your business.

Stephen Ashcroft, Managing Director