Running a business can be like jumping off a cliff, and trusting that you have the skill and fortitude to soar. It often takes nerves of steel to run a business; but for many, there is a worse fear…Networking. Why? It involves almost everyones’ biggest fear…Public Speaking!
Even if you have the greatest product or service ever…you still have to sell it. Networking is extraordinarily important (almost as important as your website!) but it’s often dreaded by the shyer souls amongst us. Walking into a room full of people I don’t know and introducing myself and my business, exchanging business cards etc. still doesn’t feel totally natural, but it does get easier with practice and you never know who you will meet! I’ve listed below a few networking groups that I’ve found useful.
Nanaimo Women’s Business Network
This is a warm and welcoming group of success oriented women. Check the calendar at www.nwbn.ca for meetings and to register online. They have informative speakers, workshops and always have a great time.
Business Network International
BNI is a great networking group focused on growing your business through referrals. There are 20 chapters on the Island. Visit www.bnicanada.ca to find out more. This type of networking allows one represtative from each profession/industry per chapter, so by joining, you lock out your competition. My chapter, www.bastioncitybni.com, has been excellent for business.
Chamber of Commerce
Check out your local Chamber of Commerce. Each Chamber has mixers and networking events and many resources to help business owners. Go to www.nanaimochamber.bc.ca or www.chamber.parksville.bc.ca or www.ladysmithcofc.com for each town’s calendar of events. Each chanber has other opportunities for networking, such as "Business after Business” or "Breakfast before Business” events which are great for making new business acquaintances.
I highly recommend this group to anyone who finds public speaking a challenge. There are chapters all over the world and they have a proven program that really DOES work to get you feeling comfortable about public speaking. Imagine speaking with polish and eloquence in any situation. I’m still imagining myself, as I have only been a member of the Sunriser’s Toastmaster Club for a short while; but already I have noticed a huge improvement in my comfort level. Frequently in my business I have to stand up and give a short speech, a 30 second infomercial, or consult with groups comfortably during a meeting. It really helps not to turn six shades of scarlet while doing so! Find a local chapter at www.toastmasters.bc.ca and check it out. They won’t push you to speak until you are ready. The speeches are entertaining and there’s nothing like practice in a group of encouraging peers to get comfortable.
Most of the people I do business with I have met though networking, and over time formed a relationship of trust with. It’s comforting to know that I have a network of professionals that I can rely on and that the meeting rooms I enter often have familiar faces in them. You just never know who you will meet: the perfect employee, a company to exchange leads with or a business looking for the services you offer. Come on out, take a leap and network!
Coexist Design Inc.