When it comes to networking, I don’t know too many people who get excited about the thought of walking into a room full of people they don’t know and talking about themselves. But when done well, networking can be one of the best ways for you to grow your business, especially in Ballarat!
The business community of Ballarat is thriving and vibrant, and there are so many levels of experience, sizes of business and opportunities waiting for you. You really never know who you might meet, or what might come out of a new conversation. Networking definitely is NOT an opportunity to dump your cards, do your pitch then run. It’s about meeting people, hearing their stories, sharing your experiences and learning from each other.
Networking Like a Pro
One of the best tips I can give you for boosting your confidence and heading into a networking event, is not to think of it as you pitching your business or product, but rather, going in to learn about OTHER PEOPLE’s business & interests. Be the one who introduces yourself and asks THEM what they do, where do they come from, what brought them here today, and actually LISTEN. Ask them questions about it, carry on that conversation, and eventually it will lead back to you and what you do. Then you can casually tell them a little about yourself once you’ve let the conversation warm up and settled those nerves. By taking an interest in other people, you can learn a LOT!
Another great tip if you don’t know anyone is to get there EARLY. That way the only people there will be the organisers, and they will introduce themselves to you, have that first chat, and then as others start to arrive they will introduce you to more people. A great way to break the ice and not feel like a fish out of water.
And a great way to boost your visibility and feel more confident in a room full of amazing business folks, is to volunteer to be part of the organising group. Some groups have local ambassadors who run the events, or have boards and committees, others just need volunteers to help do simple jobs like hand out name tags. Offer to help with some aspect of the group and you will instantly eliminate some of those nerves, and be part of the busy bees making things happen, so you aren’t standing like a deer in the headlights waiting for someone to talk to.
Final tip, look for groups of odd numbers. A two person conversation will generally be close and concentrated, especially if it is loud and hard to hear without being very close together, so a third wheel on the outside of the conversation will gladly accept the offer of new friends. So look for groups with 3 or 5 people, and spot the person who is slightly on the outside of the deep conversation. That is your chance to step in and introduce yourself without feeling like you are interrupting a really important conversation.
Ballarat Networking Groups
So once you have yourself armed with a teeny bit of confidence and your business cards, you can pick and choose the networking groups that suit you best. There are so many in Ballarat, all with different types of attendees, and different flavours of events. From breakfast to night time drinks, casual to formal. Whatever your style, there is something for you.
I’ve put together a list of the ones I am aware of, and if there are others I’ve missed please let me know so I can add them here!
- Ballarat Business Women
- Ballarat Health & Wellness Network
- Better Business Ballarat
- BNI Ballarat
- Boardroom Rebel Society
- Business in Heels
- Commerce Ballarat
- Funsize Enterprise
- Left of the Clique
- Soar Collective
If you have any more tips to share or questions to ask on networking, or some great success stories or experiences with local networking events, I would absolutely LOVE to read them in the comments below.
Until then, happy connecting!