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Innovate UK’s essential business networking tips

Tue, 20 September 2016

Innovate UK contributes a blog post with some handy networking tips.
Networking is intimidating. Approaching strangers, introducing yourself and discussing business isn’t many people’s idea of fun. 
Networking is however, one of the most vital ways of gaining valuable contacts in business. Many success stories originate from two likeminded people meeting at a networking event. If you’re one of those who gets nervous just thinking about this, don’t worry because you’re not alone. Innovate UK have put together a number of essential tips that will help you become a networking guru in no time.
Step 1: Pick the right event
Networking events are an investment of your time and effort. Why would you waste it by going to one which isn’t relevant? It’s surprising how many people won’t fully research the event and background before attending. Remember to consider what it is you’re looking to achieve. If you’re looking for a business partner, investor, clients, customers, mentor or just simply valuable contacts, you should tailor your search accordingly. This is all about giving you the best chance to achieve your targets.
Step 2: Build connections before your attendance
So you are the type of person who gets a little nervous at these events? Not an issue. One of the best ways to get over the initial awkwardness of introductions and small talk is by doing this online. There’s usually a bit of buzz on social media about these events. Find the people you want to talk to and make your introductions beforehand. This will make you seem more approachable and professional whilst leaving more time for valuable networking.
Step 3: Maximise your opportunities when there
The event has rolled around. It’s time for you to shine. It’s important that when networking you don’t just talk about yourself. No one will take you seriously. Listen first and only speak about yourself when it’s appropriate. Having said this, it’s always worth having a well-rehearsed elevator pitch ready – you never know who you might meet. On the night, post on social media using the relevant event hashtags. This will make you visible to others and again makes you more approachable.
Step 4: It’s not over yet, follow up!
Networking doesn’t end when the official event does. It’s an ongoing process. It’s vital that you follow up with any given actions immediately after the event. Message your connections online, make phone calls and follow through with anything you agreed to do. Try blogging about the event, this’ll keep you on the radar of key influencers and will also get great exposure. Once everything’s settled down, evaluate your participation. Was it worth it? Did you achieve your perceived goals? Now it’s time to plan your next one.
About Innovate UK
Innovate UK are the British government’s innovation agency. They are focussed on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who can use new science and technology to drive economic growth. They invest in big technology projects like jet engines and oil drilling systems, but they also invest in projects from startups and very small business. For startups who want to test out an innovative new idea or technology Innovate UK can provide funds for feasibility studies of up to £150,000.

You can subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel here. Alternatively, follow @InnovateUK on Twitter here.

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