Networking tips for directors

Many people think of networking as attending an event and “working a room”, but it also takes place every time you meet up with a business associate or contact.

Networking is about establishing and cultivating relationships. Such relationships will be more productive and last longer if you ensure they are mutually advantageous. The goal is to make connections with people who might be able to help you achieve your aims.

In order to get the maximum benefit from networking it helps to target events and places where you think you are most likely to meet useful contacts.

How to work a room – networking tips

  • Get rid of personal clutter such as bags and briefcases – just carry your business cards.
  • Wear your badge at shoulder-height, so it’s in people’s line of sight when you shake hands.
  • Get yourself a drink or food – not both. Strike up a light conversation at the buffet as a warm-up exercise.
  • Stand on your own for a bit on the edge of the room. At some point you will probably be alone, so you need to feel comfortable in this situation.
  • Look around for people who look interesting and friendly. Join a group when the conversation doesn’t look too serious – causing a break in a deep conversation will be considered rude.
  • Say: “I’d like to carry on circulating, it’s been a pleasure talking to you”, or use a similar way to excuse yourself politely.
  • Look for a person you find daunting and make a point of chatting with them – it will help boost your confidence for future networking events.

After attending any networking event you should file away business cards and email anyone you had a particularly interesting or valuable conversation with, to say that you enjoyed meeting them and decide a way forward. You should always ensure that you action any promises you make.

Online business networking

If you have little time for networking, using the Internet can be a convenient and cost-effective way to build contacts with suppliers, customers and potential business partners.

Making the right contacts can be crucial to developing your business. But traditional networking can sometimes be time consuming.  Networking online is a more time-efficient and convenient way to facilitate introductions than cold-calling and it is now much simpler than it used to be.

The key benefit of online networking is convenience; it can take place at any time and you do not need to travel to events. It also exposes you to a wider pool of potential contacts who you can pinpoint in a way that removes the chance that characterises many traditional networking events.

However you should not neglect physical networking, because it is a good way to build a lasting relationship.  Many online networks also organise real life events; things sometimes work much quicker if you meet someone, and it’s easier to assess if you want to do business with each other.

Getting involved in Networking Groups

Before signing up to a business network, make sure that it will suit your business. Some are specific, such as the Women’s Business Network; others have a regional focus, such as the various ‘chapters’ of Business Network International.

By being active you can build your network quite quickly. Aim to make the most of every contact you get. Think about current projects you are working on and who could help you. Remember, if your contact can’t help you directly, they might refer you on.

While networking online is attractive to business owners who are pressed for time, it is best considered a ‘virtual handshake’, not a replacement for face-to-face networking.

Many organisations, such as the IoD, are increasingly offering a combined approach to networking by providing opportunities to create contacts and network online as well as at more traditional events.

How the IoD can help

IoD Online Networking Group: The IoD has joined forces with LinkedIn, the world’s leading online networking group for business users. With over 10,000 members, our LinkedIn group is the premier destination for business leaders to connect, share ideas, and grow their businesses. Join the group.

IoD Events: Our business events are designed to help directors and business leaders network – online and in-person – to share ideas and build their business community. Browse our events to see what’s taking place in your area.

  • Flagship Events, Conferences and Seminars – See full listings of all local and national IoD events from topical conferences and free seminars to the IoD Director of the Year Awards and more
  • IoD events with networking opportunities
  • Policy Events – seminars and events to discuss the latest legislation

IoD regional branches: Tap into our network of 52 branches across the UK and internationally to broaden your network, build your career and strengthen your organisation. Check your local IoD branch for further opportunities to network with fellow business leaders in your local area.

Special Interest Groups: Special Interest Groups are the IoD’s centres of excellence, bringing together business leaders with specific industry knowledge to share best practice, participate in topic-led discussions and influence policy by offering feedback directly to UK ministers. Find your specialist business community here.

Networking Groups

In addition to the networking opportunities available through your membership with the IoD, you may wish to consider some of the following popular networking groups (although this is by no means an exhaustive list).

Your local Chamber of Commerce

Your local Chamber of Commerce may well run a networking group, find out from The British Chambers of Commerce. One positive aspect of such groups is that they often include executives from larger companies that don’t attend other networking groups

Business Networking International (BNI): “BNI provides a structured, supportive, business environment in which local business people can get together to network, learn valuable new marketing skills and develop strong personal relationships that lead to trust and the consequent generation of significant business for each other.” The point of the group is to generate referrals for members. You get to know the other members in your group through regular meetings and 121s, and then look out for opportunities for them. They will then do the same for you.

Organisations and networks for women in business

London-based City Women Network describes itself as “a vibrant community for senior professional women to connect, contribute and grow”

The Women in Business Networkis a membership organisation for women who wish to gain new business opportunities through word of mouth. They have various networking branches around London and the South of England.

Everywoman (Online community for women entrepreneurs) – a global membership organisation that champions the advancement of women. &rdquoMembers have access to a wealth of online personal development tools and resources.”

Prowess – Women In Businessis an online resource supporting woman as entrepreneurs. As well as supporting women in permanent work, Prowess is a good source of information for mothers or women in later life looking to start in business.

WEConnect Europe (Formerly called Women in Enterprise): “WEConnect Europe is the leading global supplier diversity initiative spearheading the connection of women-owned business and multinational corporations. It is Europe’s leading advocate of women-owned businesses as suppliers to global and national corporations and government bodies” It also “facilitates the building of strong networks for women by connecting them both with procurement officers of top corporations and with other certified firms in order to enhance bidding capacity, and creates the opportunity of business to business contracting.”

FCEM World Association of Women Entrepreneurs:”FCEM brings together in solidarity and friendship, like-minded women who share a common interest, that of entrepreneurship. Today, the FCEM network includes over 120 different countries and 5 million members from the five continents.”

British Association of Women Entrepreneurs“This is a peer group for women entrepreneurs who want to be challenged. Our aim is to challenge women entrepreneurs not only be great but to be exceptional!”

National Black Women’s Network (NBWN):”Champions the advancement of women across all professional disciplines by recognising excellence, promoting leadership and effectively positioning its members at the forefront of the rapidly changing corporate and business world.”

Organisations and networks for Non Executive Directors

Financial Times Non-Executive Directors’ Club: The club will “give you access to a thriving community of non-executives, as well as the latest editorial and reports, special events and the latest jobs.”

Non-Executive Directors Association: The Non-Executive Directors Association was established in 2006 to “represent Non-Executive Directors and ensure they are properly trained and developed.” Although not primarily a networking organisation it does run a number of events for non execs.

Organisations and networks for Finance Directors

The Finance Directors’ Forum: The Finance Directors’ Forums “Combine conference sessions, peer networking and supplier meetings into a time efficient and focused event that is unique.”

The Finance Director Europe website, which is mainly a news and intelligence resource for FD’s, also runs a number of events exclusively for finance directors.

Networking with Europe

The Enterprise Europe Network: “A key instrument in the EU’s strategy to boost growth and jobs. Bringing together close to 600 business support organisations from more than 50 countries, we help small companies seize the unparalleled business opportunities in the EU Single Market.”

Enterprise Europe Network London (EEN London): “This networking group strives to make it easier for London companies and organisations to more effectively engage with Europe. The Network provides a broad range of business support for small and medium enterprises based in the Greater London area in an effort to increase their competitiveness through internationalisation and innovation.”

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