We rarely do business alone! Regardless of your industry or stage of development, you need to constantly know where to turn to fuel your business. Fortunately, there is no lack of networking initiatives in Brussels! If you don't know how to go about it, here are some tips on how to become a successful networker.
Take our word for it !
Networking is a good opportunity to multiply your business opportunities. It is the ideal time to meet people who are involved in your business in one way or another, such as business partners, suppliers, service providers, customers and even potential employees. The position these people occupy can be key in terms of information about what you are offering (market needs, etc.); communication facilities (word of mouth, reputation, etc.); sales (conclusion of contracts, etc.); or building up your business (new partnerships, new recruit, etc.). A good network of relationships is therefore inevitably a solid guarantee of success in the smooth running and growth of a business.
Don't limit yourself to virtual networking
Networking on the web and in real life are two possibilities but they do not lead to the same goals. The growing importance of social media is obviously a great opportunity to connect to the rest of the world, see what is going on and interact with it. However, web-based connections cannot replace real-world relationships. Above all, it is stable, well-established relationships that will be the source of real opportunities for your business. This approach obviously involves more effort, but you will see that it very often pays off.
Turn moments into opportunities
Creating a good network of contacts is within everyone's reach as long as you keep in mind a few basic networking principles.
Time is a scarce commodity for entrepreneurs. So you need to choose what you will spend your time on (trade shows, conventions, seminars, receptions, meetings, etc.). The selection criterion must be the opportunity that the events represent for your business - how will they fuel it or make it prosper? You need to focus your efforts on those relationships that will help you grow. The same is true with the people you approach. The goal is not to leave with as many business cards as possible in your pocket. Know exactly who you want to meet and strive for quality in relationships rather than quantity.
Choosing an active networking attitude means not leaving it to chance and asking yourself the right questions. Find out about the nature of the event. The objective here is to gather as many details as possible about the event you are going to attend. Where is it being held? Is it formal or casual? This information will allow you to adapt your attitude and your presentation.
You should also ask yourself the following questions: who would I need to connect with to be more successful? Which groups of people could be most beneficial to my business? How can I connect with these people? etc. It's up to you to identify the people and organisations you want to meet so you don't risk spreading yourself too thin among the participants.
Once you have laid the groundwork for your strategy, you must then prepare your speech. Take stock of who you are, what your strengths are and how you can stand out. To discover how to introduce yourself using the elevator pitch method, read this article on this site.
To prepare well, you should also work out your means of communication.
The business card remains the most commonly used communication tool for networking. You must include the essential information about your business and how to contact you. Choose an original and impactful business card while keeping the design clean so you stand out from the competition.
You can also take physical or digital presentation brochures, but be careful to choose the right moment to present them.
Lastly, in the moment, pay attention to the person you are talking to; know who you are talking to and listen to what they have to say. This will allow you to find out what reaction you are causing in them and what they can possibly bring to you.
Maintain your relationships
The conversation and follow-up are the essential steps in ensuring the success of your networking mission. The greatest value of a networking meeting is the opportunities that come from it, so not following up on these new contacts is a real waste.
For an effective and successful boost:
- take notes on the different conversations you have had, as this will allow you to be consistent with your contacts when you get in touch.
- structure your network and put your contacts in order so that you can remember exactly who you can contact later.
- think about social networks, adding each interesting contact to your professional networks so you don't lose touch.
- follow up these new meetings in the week following the event so you can continue the exchange (email, meeting proposal, etc.).
But where should you network?
Professional federations and associations organise numerous events for entrepreneurs. For example, BECI has been organising meetings for many years: afterworks, breakfasts, lunches.... The same applies to UCM, UNIZO and some sectoral federations.
BUSINESS CENTRES, INCUBATORS AND COWORKING SPACES
The many initiatives that follow are from workspaces that are clearly collaborative in nature. They all aim to create development opportunities from the complementarity of their members. While they reserve certain activities for their occupants, many also broaden the scope of their events to the outside world to facilitate meetings between all types of entrepreneurial profiles.
- Business centres, supported by the public authorities, offer opportunities to meet in various forms: meetings between the entrepreneurs located there or after-work events that encourage meetings between start-ups and existing entrepreneurs around a common theme.
- The mission of incubators is to host university spin-offs and other innovative start-ups arising from scientific research. There are also many networking activities, formal and otherwise.
- Many coworking spaces also encourage synergies between entrepreneurs. Many of them regularly organise events of all kinds. Check out our 'Who can help me' tool to find out about these spaces and their activities.
Business support organisations
Other structures offer follow-up to the entrepreneurs they support or have helped launch. All these organisations can be found on the "Who can help me" tool on the 1819.brussels website.
From the perspective of sectoral initiatives, the hub.brussels clusters stimulate exchanges between their members through a number of activities. Other organisations such as MAD and Smartbe aim to unite and bring artists together with other types of entrepreneurs who can help them develop their business.
Women's networking is extremely effective and has developed considerably in recent years. You can find the different structures that offer it on the platform https://www.womeninbusiness.brussels/
Entrepreneurial communities and networks
Opportunities also arise from organisations whose mission is to connect entrepreneurs so that they can collaborate.
- This is the case of BNI (Business Network International), which is a business network based on mutual recommendations. It is aimed at company managers, professionals, and small- and medium-sized businesses wanting to develop their business by networking with other people with complementary profiles.
- Another is the Réseau Entreprendre Bruxelles, which works on an application basis and offers its members networking events between entrepreneurs and a mentoring service with more experienced entrepreneurs.
- French-Connect is a strong, original initiative that has been running for several years. It is a professional network that aims to connect French and Belgian managers who want to do business together and develop on one or the other territory.
- Le Réseau Diane is the women's business network boosted by UCM that includes Wallonia and Brussels. The network's mission is to support women's entrepreneurship by actively supporting women in the development of their business.
- Some Brussels municipalities also have very active networks of entrepreneurs. Don't hesitate to ask your local council for information!
Trade fairs and shows
Must-attend events for the various players in the professional world, trade fairs are generally themed and organised by sector of activity.
The main objective of these shows is to encourage professionals to network.
Workshops and training
Workshops and short training courses can create quite beneficial interactions and links between participants through different events. This allows them to meet and talk to new people interested in the same theme in a small group.
There is such a wide range of networking initiatives in Brussels that we cannot list them all, and more are being created all the time. One option is to regularly visit the Agenda section of this site, where you will find a large number of events, workshops, seminars and training courses organised for entrepreneurs. So get started, because now you have no excuse not to develop promising professional relationships.