I have created a series of nineteen networking top tips that I will be posting over the next month. All designed to help you make the time and effort that you put into networking as effective as possible.

I began networking the instant I set up in business back in 2002, aged just 21. When I say set up in business I mean it in the lightest sense; I was just playing really and learning where everything was going to fit in with my life. It was a great time! I was making hand made cards and wedding stationery and working very much part time around my 2 year old daughter. Looking back now I realise that at the time I didn’t have very much to give at the meetings I attended, but I did have bags of enthusiasm and a hunger to learn and develop.

I really enjoyed mixing with the range of business people and being inspired to do well. So much so that I decided to start my own BNI (Business Network International) Chapter in 2003. At that time there was just 2 groups running in Norwich and one in King’s Lynn, that was it in Norfolk. Other networking events were pretty low on the ground too so I was keen to get something good happening a little closer to Fakenham, where I was living at the time.

I got in touch with the people I needed to speak to and myself and a handful of other dedicated individuals launched the group in June 2003. I was a very active member for 7 years and I’m happy to say that it’s still going strong today. Of course I didn’t do it on my own, for anything like that to work you need the right team willing to put in the hard graft required to make it happen, make it grow and be a success. I’m grateful that I have worked with many of these people over the years in doing exactly that and they have definitely had a positive impact on my life.

I started a ladies networking group in 2006 and ran a few events over the years before re-launching it with a group of other women in 2013 – you can find out more about that at www.ladiesnetwork.co.uk .

Funnily enough I first thought ladies networking might be a bit ‘fluffy’, and if I’m honest there has been the odd meeting that has been, but in most instances my experience of networking with women is one of business with the added bonus of being hugely supportive far less competitive an environment. Don’t get me wrong I’m still a great advocate of mixed networking meetings too – I just like to have a nice mix of the two.

I know that there are a massive number of people with businesses that have never tried networking and I genuinely believe that they are missing out! Of course networking is never going to be for everyone, nothing is. But we’ve never had more choice than there is these days and I do believe that there is a group somewhere that will suit pretty much anyone. Whether you want to meet for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you want to be suited and booted and formal or fancy networking with kiddies in tow there really is a group out there for you… or if there isn’t one nearby you could just start one! There’s even a whole host of online networking opportunities nowadays and I can see this becoming more popular over the next few years.

If you’re in Norfolk you’ll find on my website a list of regional networking events and I have been to most of them at least once.

How do you know which one is right for you? It totally depends on the type of person you are and my recommendation has always been to visit as many as you can and then decide on one (or maybe a few if they’re monthly) that you enjoy and that suits your business needs and then stick with them. You’re far more likely to benefit from networking if you attend regularly and nurture the relationships that you make while you’re there. If you’re a little nervous why not take a friend or ask someone which they recommend and get yourself an invitation so you’re not walking in cold. Whatever works for you, I urge you to just do it! You never know… you may just LOVE it!

So enjoy the upcoming tips and do join in the conversation and let me know your own thoughts and experiences, after all learning from each other is what it’s all about!

What’s been your best experience at a networking event? Do tell all below 🙂