What Is Networking in Business? And How to Build a Network
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 4 July 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Business networking can be an effective way to connect with industry leaders and grow your professional relationships. To make the most of networking events, it's important to define your goals and practice your pitches. Understanding pitch techniques and the purpose of networking in business can help you define your goals and be more effective at building professional relationships.
In this article, we show you what networking is in business, why it's important and discuss various tips and steps you can take to improve your business networking skills to create stronger long-term professional relationships.
What is networking in business?
Networking in business is the process of connecting with professionals in or outside of your industry and establishing long-term relationships with them. As a representative of a business or your own brand, you can make connections that help increase your brand exposure, provide skills or tools you need for expanding your operations or adding talent to your teams, or keep you updated on industry news and standards. Often, professionals network through various platforms, including career websites or social media, in-person events like seminars, or during business meetings or interactions.
Benefits of business networking
Networking in business can provide many benefits, including:
Proving your industry knowledge: As you make new contacts in your industry, people may recognise your level of expertise and offer you opportunities to advance your career.
Increasing awareness of your product or business: Each person you meet might be another potential client or customer or someone who can send you referrals. By attending networking events, you're widening your public profile.
Creating long-term connections: The business contacts you meet today might be future employers or references tomorrow. Everyone you meet can be a potential long-term connection to help you build your career, business or brand.
Keeping updated with industry news and standards: Making long-term professional connections can help you stay updated on industry news and changing professional standards to help keep your brand or company competitive.
Learning new skills or knowledge: Creating professional connections can also help you learn new skills or even knowledge about the industry, customers or processes for your company. These news skills can help you advance your career and become a more competitive job candidate.
Attending networking events
You might attend a networking event to create new connections or follow up on established connections. Before you attend a networking event, it's helpful to determine the types of events and business contacts that can benefit your career the most, and what your professional goals and networking goals are. You might want to gain leads, advance your industry knowledge or build awareness of your professional limitations. Understanding what you want and expect from the experience can improve the value you receive from each event.
Types of business networking events
There are many different kinds of networking events, including:
Professional conferences: These are usually events centred around the general industry, discussing changes, improvements or new regulations.
Seminars or webinars: These events typically focus on key areas of an industry or on teaching new skills to attendees.
Keynote lectures: These events are often lectures or discussions featuring a keynote speaker, which is usually someone with expertise in the industry.
Professional organisations: These can be general networking events focused on encouraging professionals from similar or different industries to network with each other.
Advanced degree classes and workshops: Workshops, online classes and degree programmes focus on teaching specific skills to attendees while allowing opportunities to network.
Online networking communities: These are typically social media or career websites where professionals can find others in their industry and follow their activities.
Choosing an event
Once you've defined your ideal networking opportunities, you can begin searching for specific events. Here's how to find the right events for your goals:
Search for conferences online. Use the web to search with specific keywords to find the right events or resources. For example, if you're selling software that benefits supply chain companies, input supply chain conferences into a search engine.
Find upcoming events on social media. You can search for events on social media or career websites, or follow industry leaders, colleagues and connections to learn about upcoming events through their news feeds.
Visit with friends, colleagues or coworkers. You may already have people in your social and business networks who regularly attend events. Ask your friends, family and coworkers if there are any networking opportunities that they recommend.
How to establish a network during and before an event
Here's how you can work on establishing a business network before and during a professional event:
1. Master your elevator pitch
When initiating a networking conversation, your overall goal should be to sell yourself. The elevator pitch you deliver is vital. An elevator pitch summarises who you are, the product you're selling and how it might benefit the consumer. When delivering an elevator pitch, appear confident in yourself and in your product or service. Maintain eye contact, use good posture and speak in a positive tone about the value you or your product can bring to your customers. These pitches typically last approximately 20 seconds and include strong selling points. Here's an example of an effective elevator pitch:
Example: “Hi, my name is Lan. It's great to meet you! I'm a Senior Sales Executive at Good Enterprises. I've used my 10 years of sales experience and seven years in the software industry to provide businesses with a platform that stores all data and eliminates errors. If you have some free time next week, I'd love to discuss more with you about how we've increased efficiency for all of our clients.”
2. Ask open-ended questions
To better encourage strong conversations, consider using an open-ended questioning method when you engage with other professionals. An open-ended question is a question that allows the respondent to elaborate on their answer, as opposed to closed-ended questions, which can only have a yes or no answer. Ask questions like these to both show interest in the person's answer and allow them the freedom to elaborate and provide important details and context for their answers. Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
What do you do in the industry?
Why did you choose to attend this event?
Have you learned anything interesting at this event?
What are your most valuable industry skills?
3. Speak to everyone you can
Some networking events can include hundreds of people, so while you may not get to speak with everyone in the room, it's still important to connect with as many people as possible. Talk to everyone you can at the event to create a wider network of potential connections. If you can't talk with everyone, consider prioritising certain attendees, like the keynote speaker, any thought leaders in the industry or representatives from companies you want to make an impression on. Talking to more people can increase your chances of building new relationships or gaining new professional development opportunities.
4. Send follow-up emails
When the event is over, it's typically important to follow up with newly established connections to show them you're interested in pursuing and consolidating that connection. Send follow-up emails or phone calls to each of your connections either the next day or within a few days of the event. It's important to send emails as soon as possible, as attendees may forget specific names if they meet a lot of different people. Create a short, simple email that explains that you met at the event, you're interested in having a wider conversation and include your full name and contact information.
5. Offer value to your new connections
One of the most important steps in the process is the final step when you offer real value to your new connections. Ultimately, connecting with someone on a professional level should be beneficial to both parties, so it's important to offer whatever value you can to your new connections. You might have significant experience in the industry and can offer pertinent advice on the industry or its processes. Or, you might have advanced training in a specialised technique and can offer guidance for novices. Provide value for each connection to help maintain that connection.
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