Most business articles you read will tell you the most important part of growing your company is networking. Whether you’re a one-man-band looking for more clients, or an SME with an established base, networking can help you out on every level.  You’ll have the chance to attract both new customers and new employees, as well as making connections with your peers, competitors and possible mentors.

However, networking isn’t easy. For some, it’s a walk in the park. For others, though, it’s a total nightmare: having to introduce yourself to strangers, not knowing anyone in a room; talking about yourself and what you want. Unfortunately, networking only gets easier the more times you do it. So, use these tips and network like the professionals do - and once you’re successful, come back and tell us your best ideas!

Look the part

Successful people often dress in similar ways. They are understated yet sophisticated. Elegant yet demure. They wear high quality clothes and accessories, and they know what suits them, and what doesn’t. You want to make a good, powerful first impression, so bespoke suits, like ones from companies such as Lanieri, are a great investment. Make sure your appearance is smart: clean clothes and shoes, brushed hair, and no chipped nail varnish! To add something extra, try to accessorize your outfit. Cufflinks, necklaces and bracelets add a suggestion of sparkle, without being too ostentatious. 

If the event you’re going to is more informal, opt for dark jeans and a smart shirt or blouse. The type of shoes you wear can often lift an outfit, or make it seem more casual - so don’t just put on the first pair you see! While it seems trivial, wearing a smart, sharp outfit will make you feel more confident in yourself, which will then rub off on others. 

Fake it ‘til you make it

You might be a shy, introverted type, but if you’re going to network successfully, you need to act confident. There’s no overnight cure, so you’ll have to dedicate time and effort to perfecting your ‘on face’. Try copying super confident people: mimic their body language and how they speak. You could even borrow their style of introduction! You might spend your first few networking events simply watching and listening, but once you’ve got a good idea about how to act, you can put it into practice by making small talk and introducing yourself to the room.

Don’t forget to bring the basics with you: notepad, pen, laptop and business cards. These small props will help you feel more at ease, more professional, and more like the others. 

Be inclusive, not exclusive

There might be one person at an event that everyone wants to talk to. If you can get time with them, that’s great, but don’t write off the rest of the room. You’ll sometimes receive a guest list before you arrive, so you’ll probably already have a good idea of who you want to talk to. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the people who can obviously do something for you. People will have friends and business partners who might need to use your services - but you won’t know until you ask.