Talking to a room full of strangers can be a daunting prospect but, with the right approach, you could make networking an enjoyable and productive experience.

Networking is not just about selling yourself, it’s also an opportunity for you to form longer-term relationships and find a community of like-minded people who will support you and your business.

Attending an ICB Branch meeting can be a great first step in your path towards becoming a confident business owner. At branch meetings you will not only gain valuable practice talking to new people, but you will find a supportive network of other bookkeepers who can help you as your business develops.

Looking in your local paper and doing an online search should help you find other local networking meetings to attend. It’s a good idea to talk to others in your branch to find out if any paid-for networking groups are worth investing in before you start spending too much money. Remember that networking can happen anywhere, not just at a dedicated networking event. 

“I’ve ended up doing the books for several sports people just because one day I mentioned I was a bookkeeper at my local gym.”

 Member speaking at Bath Branch Meeting

So, here are a few tips to make your networking enjoyable and productive.

Always have your business cards with you

Remember that everyone you meet could know someone who could need a bookkeeper one day.

Develop an ‘Elevator Pitch’

“I learned how to put together a one-minute elevator pitch; I learned to believe in myself, and to network, network and network. You need to ensure that the other person remembers you. I rely on my personality and charisma for that.”

 Margaret Crawford MICB

An elevator pitch is how you smoothly and succinctly describe what you do when you find yourself sharing an elevator with the President, or the biggest client you can imagine, or anyone you’d like to impress in a short space of time. 

By thinking up your elevator pitch, you become ready to confidently explain yourself and your business to anyone you meet.   Think about what it is that you love about bookkeeping, what problems you solve for your clients, and how you differ from an accountant (because that’s probably what they’ll ask).

Listen and ask questions

A networking meeting, or chance encounter, is not the time to try for closing a deal. You may also find it easier to open your conversation with questions and then talk about yourself once you can relate it back to what they’ve told you about their business.

"I firmly believe that networking is not so much about selling myself as it is listening to others, listening for opportunities, and finding ways to have others like me, and trust me.”

Margaret Crawford MICB

Set a goal for how many business cards you’ll give out at an event

It’s unrealistic to set a goal for how much business you will win, but you can control how many people you meet. Setting a goal could help boost your confidence and stop you from getting stuck talking to one person all evening. Don’t be worried about making a polite exit from the conversation, but do try to avoid scanning the room over someone’s shoulder.

Approach the right people at an event

Try to avoid interrupting groups of people who are deep in conversation, instead wait for gaps in the discussion. Look out for people who are standing by themselves, they are likely to be even more receptive to you. It’s also worth introducing yourself to the event organisers and asking for introductions.

Write notes on business cards

As soon as you can, write notes on the backs of your collection of business cards so you can remember the conversations you had.

Follow up

Remember yourself to the people who could be valuable contacts; perhaps sending a quick email to tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them or a link to an article you think they’d enjoy.  If you use Twitter, you might like to post a photo of the event with the event hashtag so that other attendees will see it, you could even send this as a tweet to some of the people you met if you have their Twitter ID.