What Do You Think When You Hear the Word Networking?

For some, it might be a wonderful opportunity to make new business friends and connections.  For others, it suggests the daunting task of walking into a busy room and attempting to join conversations with people unknown to them. As the managing director of my own business, I have firsthand experience in witnessing the transformative power of networking. I’ve recently been shortlisted with the Network Ireland Limerick branch in the category of ‘Networker of the Year’, a nomination which I am very proud of. This week I share some insights and tips on how to build your networking skills.

Network Ireland Branch Winner

Solo Businesswoman Category Limerick Winner 2024 Network Ireland


The Importance of Networking

Every interaction I have had through networking has been invaluable. I have learned something new from every person I have met, whether it’s a different approach to a challenge, a fresh perspective, or a valuable insight. As a solo entrepreneur, the ability to connect with mentors and bounce ideas off experienced individuals has been hugely important in the growth and development of my business.  All of this is possible, when we step outside of our comfort zone and learn how to network in a way which is true to ourselves, which is possible!

The Power of Referrals

Referrals have been the backbone of my business. By building a strong network and fostering genuine connections, I have been able to tap into a wealth of opportunities and support. It’s not always easy to put myself out there and ask for a coffee or Zoom meeting, but the results have always been worthwhile. Each new connection has opened up new avenues for collaboration, cross-promotion, and mutual support.

The Challenges and Rewards of Networking

Running a business by myself has been a series of lessons learned each year as my company has grown and developed. Navigating the challenges of being a solo entrepreneur has been made easier by the support and guidance I have received from my network. While it can be daunting to step out of my comfort zone, I have found that the rewards of networking far outweigh the initial discomfort.

When you feel nervous or anxious about attending an event or meeting a new group of people, rest assured that you are not the only one who feels like this. I myself have had those moments, and I have spoken to people at events also, who confirmed that they too felt the very same in those moments before walking into the room.  It helps to know that everyone there is in the same boat, and some just have more practice than others in this area.  Know that it is inevitable that you will build your confidence and skills the more practice you get.  That has certainly been my experience.


The Importance of Giving Back

As a member of various networking groups, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give back to the communities that have me. Whether it’s offering advice, sharing learnings, providing cross-referrals or providing support and insights, I believe in the power of paying it forward. By helping others in my network, I am not only contributing to their success but also strengthening the overall ecosystem.  As the saying goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.


Top Tips for Creating a Strong Business Network:

  1. Be prepared and have a clear networking strategy. Before attending networking events, identify your goals and who you want to connect with. Prepare an elevator pitch and have conversation starters ready to make a good impression.  A smile goes a long way, and most people are open to telling you what they do, it’s always a great starting point!


  1. Leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram to connect with professionals in your industry, particularly prior to attending events. Use these platforms to engage with others, open conversations, share your expertise, and maintain relationships with your existing contacts.


  1. Attend networking events regularly and get out of your comfort zone.  Don’t just stick to people you already know – make an effort to meet new individuals and build genuine connections. Follow up with new contacts and offer value to your network.  I find it helps to have a ‘networking buddy’ to go along to events with, which can make it easier to walk into a crowded room.


  1. Most importantly, remember to breathe!  Try to relax and imagine that you are making ‘new business friends’.  Take the pressure off to ‘make a sale’ or ‘get business’ from the event.  Of course, that is always a fantastic outcome but most often, going to these events is about raising your profile in your industry and making new connections.  There will come a time when you will walk into a room and people will recognise you, and maybe there will be someone there who comes towards you, to make conversation because they recognise you from previous events.  Then you know your efforts are being rewarded!


Embrace the Power of Networking

In conclusion, the power of networking has been instrumental in the growth and success of my business. By stepping out of my comfort zone, making genuine connections, and giving back to my network, I have been able to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and achieve remarkable results. I encourage all business owners, especially women and solo entrepreneurs, to embrace the power of networking and to see it as a valuable investment in the future of their businesses.


To learn more about how we can help you develop these crucial skills book a clarity call or email denise@obrienlearningsolutions.ie