I wrote an article which was a personal account of what opportunities came to me whilst I was networking (http://www.meetnlink.com/business_social_networking_articles/business_networking/how_to_network_effectively_84.aspx) but in this post, I didn’t want to share just the opportunities that have presented themselves to me, but a set of practical tips which I hope you will find useful in order to drive your own business forward.  Let me know what you think!

Make yourself unforgettable. When you get a minute to talk about yourself, you have to make it unforgettable. The other day I heard an amazing woman who read her elevator pitch by way of a poem. Now THAT is truly memorable. I heard a lady from a networking event say that the way to make yourself unforgettable is to tell a story or to have a prop. So try and incorporate one of both of those things into your elevator pitch.
Ask what they do. Listen to others when you’re networking, don’t interrupt and try and really listen to what the other person is saying. As I’ve just started my own business, I want to spread the word about MayKingTea through word of mouth, but wouldn’t it be great if other people can spread the word about you? So by being interested in other people, they will hopefully remember you for it, and hopefully will remember you to others. And remember that by listening to others, do your best to help other people because that will help your business grow too. 
Yes to everything. When I first started networking, I couldn’t afford to be choosy, so I networked like it was going out of fashion. People asked me for my tea-tastings, could I do it for a, b, and c, and I said Yes to all of them!! Don’t worry about the details, as you can research into those, but never turn down an opportunity because you never know how it may benefit your business, and if it didn’t, well at least you’ve widened your network and spoken to more people. 
Know your Business. When people ask you what you do, how you got into the business, be prepared with all the answers. To establish yourself as an expert in your field, you have to have to knowledge and know the cost of your services and products. You can also establish yourself as an expert online. I use social media to establish myself as an expert in the tea industry. I response to other people’s blogs, write comments to articles, use Facebook, Twitter and Linked In discussions (and of course, just started my own blog). People tend to only buy from trusted brands, and as I am a new brand, I have to prove that I know what I’m talking about, and that I’m a brand that people can trust. Only then will people buy from me and people will only buy from me if I know what I’m talking about and I’m someone people can trust.
Intonation is King. Be really excited about what you do. If you’re not passionate about your business, nobody is going to want to buy from you. You’re responsible for getting up in the morning and working and if you can’t be bothered to get out of bed, then perhaps you’re not in the right business.  So remember to love what you do because if you don’t, the product or service you’re offering won’t sell itself.
Network like it’s going out of fashion. Big groups, small groups, local groups, groups involving travel. Try them all out and then make an informed decision as to which groups work for you best. Don’t look over people’s shoulders or look at your watch when talking to people. When you talk to someone, make sure you listen to them as if they’re the only one in the room. I know a lot of professional networkers who will make their decision within 30 seconds and move onto the next person. For me, personally, I think they could be missing out on an opportunity. The person you’re talking to might not require your products and services but their friends and relatives might, so when you talk to someone, just bear that in mind. But this is just my personal opinion – you have to do what you feel is right for your business.
Get on a Speaker’s Slot. One of the ways that people will remember you and what you do, is if you talk on a subject that helps their businesses as well as your own. If you’re asked to speak about your own company, then make the talk punchy, short and memorable. If you’re worried about speaking in public, then get some help for example a life coach or go to a group such as the Toastmaster’s Group. Getting on a speaker’s slot is potentially reaching out to a room full of people that you might not have otherwise reached. Speaking for 10 minutes to a room of 50 people is obviously a lot more time efficient than attempting to get round to everybody, and speaking to them for 5 minutes individually.
Take Notes. When you’ve had a chat with someone, remember to take notes, write some something personal about them that will help jog your memory, where you met them, the date and the action point you might’ve agreed on, or the conversation you’ve had. It will help you the next time you meet them or email them. And in future correspondence, remember to make it memorable. It helps you make you memorable to them.
E-Networking. Networking is not just about meeting and greeting in person.   Remember those networking groups online and maintain communication with people online. Try and follow up with a phone call in the near future and maybe arrange to meet up with them in person in time. I went to San Francisco earlier this year to finish my tea-certification, so I am now the UK’s first graduate of the Specialty Tea Institute. Anyway, I was networking in the US just like anywhere else, and it was absolutely amazing because a chap from Islington of all places, joined a San Diego Tea MeetUp group. Anyway, the organiser of that group recommended that the guy spoke to me if I needed tea advice, and we’ve met and we’ll be talking in the future. So the power of networking has no boundaries, just remember that J
And….Action! Don’t remember your calls to action. Even if someone thinks your product or service is amazing, it’s your responsibility to chase them up because they’ll be busy in their business as well. And if they loved your product/service I’m sure that they won’t feel pestered so email them, give them a call, but remember to action those calls to action.