Networking for the soulAs I was preparing for last month’s NWVA conference, I thought a lot about what I wanted the attendees to get out of the event and articulated my thoughts in a blog post looking at why attending conferences is important for your business. One of the key points was the opportunity to connect with others in your industry, to build relationships, to NETWORK.

Looking back on the success of the conference and the ease with which the group of attendees and speakers came together, sharing experiences, knowledge and humour, I wanted to take a closer look at the power of networking, especially for small business owners…on a personal level. We all know that networking can lead to opportunities, leads, referrals and, ultimately, increased business, but there are enormous emotional and psychological benefits too. Here’s why networking is good for your soul, not just your business:

Build friendships

Working for yourself is exhilarating and exciting, but, working by yourself can be a lonely experience if you don’t reach out and develop a network within your industry. Many of my strongest friendships have been started from networking, and the seemingly simple benefit of having friends in the business should not to be overlooked. Getting to know people you trust, people you admire and respect, who understand you and your vision, means you’ll have the reinforcement of friends who will chat to you, support you and look out for you. And that is priceless.

Get advice

There’s no better place to go to for advice than a network of like-minded industry contacts who’ve been in the same situations as you and faced the same challenges. Your networks can provide real, hands-on, no-nonsense advice which can keep you on track and help you avoid mistakes and wrong turns. The better your network the more knowledge you can tap into and the greater your understanding will become.

In the same way, your difficulties and successes will provide invaluable experience which you can give back to your networks by advising others.

Be inspired

In organising the NWVA conference, I was driven by a strong desire to ensure that the attendees were genuinely inspired by the speakers, and I was able to reach out to my network to find speakers who would achieve this. These are women I’ve worked with, women I know, women whom I admire and respect. Interacting with them is uplifting, motivating and encouraging. Their belief in me inspires me to keep growing and stretching myself to achieve greater things. There’s truth in the adage that you become who you associate with and I’ve always gravitated towards people with a positive, can-do mindset. The group you surround yourself with will have a real influence on your work and life, so choose well and reap the benefits of their positive influence as you, in return, provide inspiration and encouragement to others.

Grow in confidence

To begin with, networking can feel at best a little awkward and at worst downright terrifying.  But by continuing to attend events and to talk to people you don’t know, your confidence will increase and it will become much easier to strike up and engage in fruitful conversations. The growth and success of your business will depend on your ability to represent your brand well and make meaningful connections with people, so this confidence is incredibly beneficial.

Feel good by helping others

Research has shown that helping others makes us feel good, and there’s no denying the sense of satisfaction that accompanies the knowledge that you’ve genuinely helped someone out. Networking events offer endless opportunities to help others by solving a problem for them, making valuable introductions and recommendations.

So, whilst networking is an undeniably valuable source of useful business contacts and opportunities, it offers much more on a deeper, more personal level. Developing great friendships, increased confidence, being inspired, and helping others will contribute hugely to your sense of self-worth and put you in pole position to grow and develop your business.

Personally, I attend different types of networking, some specifically directed at building relationships and potential new clients and some for guidance and support, what are your experiences and how have they benefited you? Leave a comment below, it might just help somebody else !