Last year, when I began to freelance, I resolved to make time for business networking. When you work alone, networking is particularly important because it
- stimulates creativity,
- helps to keep you up to date,
- creates business opportunities,
- generates leads.
Local enterprise offices, chambers of commerce, professional firms and industry organisations all organise networking events. So, it’s fairly easy to find relevant events where you can meet local businesses or interact with people in your industry and learn from their experiences.
Often, these interactions spark ideas that enrich existing projects. Sometimes, they lead to new business opportunities. Occasionally, they take you in entirely unexpected directions.
The human factor in business networking
Recently, a contact I made at a networking event called with a surprise invitation. Anita Donoghue is business development manager at The Buff Day Spa in Dublin. We met earlier this year at a networking breakfast attended by about 200 women. More than any other conversation that morning, the few minutes I spent talking to Anita remained in my mind long after the event. Why? Because we discovered a shared interest in natural skincare. So, months after the event, when The Buff Day Spa wanted someone to sample a new facial, Anita thought of me and got in touch.
Anita’s unexpected invitation got me thinking about the human factor in networking. Usually, when we think about improving our networking skills, we focus on our elevator pitch, on collecting business cards and following up with connection requests on LinkedIn, on moving on from conversations if it’s not immediately obvious how they might benefit our business. Yet, it’s often when we discover shared interests that we create the strongest connections. So perhaps the lesson is to focus more on the human factor. I’ll certainly keep that in mind at my next business networking event.