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Networking is a great way to grow your community of business contacts and peers. For women in business, the benefits of networking include meeting like-minded professionals and connecting with people who you may do business with. Networking provides rare opportunities for learning, development, support and inspiration. Here are our networking tips for women in business.

1. Join an industry or ‘women in business’ group.

One of the best ways to connect with other women in business is to join a group or association. They key focus of this groups is to bring entrepreneurial women together, through events, meet-ups and publications.

There are a wide range of women in business groups in Australia. Industry specific groups like Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s (MEAA) and Women In Media are great for meeting people in your field. If you want to expand your network beyond your industry, more established, general groups like The League of Extraordinary Women, Inspiring Rare Birds, Business Chicks and She Business are worth looking at.

There are also many other groups that operate on a local or state level, so do some research to find out what’s near you. It’s important to feel aligned with the philosophy and approach the group practices, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from friends and peers. Read up on the group, or attend one of their events before joining so you know if it’s for you.

2. Attend events.

From industry conferences to casual after work gatherings, attending networking events is by far the easiest way to meet other small business owners. While it can seem intimidating at first, remember everyone in attendance is there for the same reason – to meet other business people.

If you’re looking for upcoming events, The Young Professional Women Australia’s (YPWA) is holding networking drinks in Sydney on April 5th where you can meet like- minded business-women. If you’re more of a morning person, register for the Biz.Connect Women’s Breakfast also held in Sydney on Tuesday 2nd May. State governments also regularly host small business events with a focus on education and networking. See what’s on in your state here. You can also look at your local Chamber of Commerce. The NSW Business Chamber and its affiliates run a range of events including Business After Hours, roundtable lunches, briefings and webinars, as does Queensland , Victoria, WA, SA, ACT.

3. Get connected.

Embrace the opportunities that present themselves at networking events. This can be as simple as exchanging business cards or connecting on LinkedIn, to following up on any suggested coffee meetings. Take every meeting or coffee date. You never know where opportunities will present themselves, they could be disguised as a problem.

While not every person you meet will be someone you work with in future, some will be. Approach and speak to lots of different people. Ask questions, be genuine in your interactions, and tell people what you and your business are about. The key is to always be polite and professional and listen as much as you speak. Consider meeting new people as an opportunity to learn and connect, not just to hard sell your business. A good opening question is to ask “How can I help you?”. This gets any conversation off on a positive footing.

4. Join the conversation.

Networking, at its best, is about interaction and engaging with others in your community. Comment on a post a new connection wrote on LinkedIn. Share articles of interest with industry groups you’re part of. Email a peer to congratulate them on an award you read they received. Contribute your opinion on an article on an industry news site or blog you follow.  Taking part in conversations will help you to strengthen relationships, remain top of mind and get to know others better (and they you).

Want to grow your business? Talk to Australia’s leading online lender to small business, Prospa, about a business loan.

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