By Kerri Walker, PR & Event Management consultant

It's easy to get overwhelmed with the pressures of promoting your business online, but let's not forget the art of meeting people in real life! A peculiar thought to some nowadays who tend to hide behind their computer screens.

The well-known phrase 'people buy people' is still true to this day. If you need something, or you recommend something then it's usually that of someone you have actually met... and like.

Networking is about starting and building relationships so try not to go to a networking event thinking you'll go home with sales and cash in your back pocket. The people you talk to at an event may not buy from you that day, or even that year but they could come to you when they do need you and recommend you to others in the meantime. If done properly, networking can be one of your main marketing strategies. Following up with people you meet is key to building the relationship with someone you just met.

There are so many networking events out there, some paid, some free to attend, and they will all have different audiences, so ensure you don't waste time going to the wrong ones. For instance, while you want to go with the intention of creating relationships in the business community, a man won't get any work from a working mums networking event, so do your homework into who attends them. Find out where the people you want to meet are and attend those events regularly so they can get to know you.

The events can be in different formats, some hugely formal with someone ringing a bell to tell you when to talk and high membership fees, some are over breakfast with a presentation, some are sessions at larger events, others can be a few people having a beer in the pub. There's something out there to suit all businesses and personalities depending on what you're comfortable with.

Do you really have to go?

Think about what is stopping you from attending these events. Is it confidence in selling to a room of strangers? Lack of confidence to stand up and introduce your new business? Lack of confidence in your presentation skills? Or do you just not like the format of events you've attended in the past?

Once you pinpoint what it is you fear or dislike about networking, you'll be able to work on that. So if it's confidence in walking into a room of strangers, this can be remedied, as can disliking the format of networking because you just find one that suits what you're looking for better.

5 reasons to go to a networking event

1. Get yourself 'out there' so you are at the top of people's minds when they need your product.

2. To meet people you could potentially collaborate with on joint ventures as well as potential clients and those that could send referrals your way.

3. You could learn something. Often events have a speaker for you to learn from or be motivated by.

4. Stay up to date on your industry trends. Attending industry conferences and events are great to meet others in your field, share ideas and learn.

5. Socialise. If you work from home and/or work alone then networking is actually a good excuse to get out the house and talk to someone. Surrounding yourself with similar business personalities will no doubt motivate you for the rest of your day.

Start by researching networking events, business shows and workshops in your area. Once you’ve started attending them you will find what events, times, groups and formats you prefer and where the people you want to talk to are. Be yourself, be confident in your business’s offering and just enjoy meeting new people!