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Networking: Stop Hiding Behind Your Computer

About six months ago, I moved my home office from a little tucked away alcove on my first floor to a room with a door on the second floor. While it has been great to have the added privacy, quiet, and physical boundaries of a door, I notice how easily I can hide up in my office if I want.

Not hide from my family (although the idea occurs periodically), but hide behind my computer. More and more, I look around and see social media chatting replacing real time networking. Please don’t mistake me, I love social media, use it all the time, and have reaped the rewards of connecting online. However, not without getting out there and networking IRL (In Real Life).

Whether it be on a local level or a regional or national conference, it is essential to connect face-to-face with other small business people in your vertical or who complement your business. Not only is this essential for your business, but also for your mindset. As I wrote earlier, being a small business person who either works from home or a small office is isolating, and talking to others allows you to see you are not alone.

The first step in networking is to start out slow. Try a local networking mixer first. Most local communities have a community calendar. Seek out a young professionals meet-up, a direct sales referral group, or even a seminar. Take a peek at what is going on out there behind the world-wide web and you will be pleasantly surprised how refreshing talking in person is!

**Tip: Take a wingman. Most of us have at least one friend or colleague who lives near us who does something similar. Cajole them to go along and be your back-up. Often walking into event with someone else is all we need to move forward.

Local networking hours often lead to meeting like-minded entrepreneurs also looking to share ideas and brainstorm solutions. Don’t just collect cards, but follow-up with the people that you met and clicked with….That means setting up a second meeting, forming a mastermind group or scheduled meet-ups.

**Tip: I try to schedule my meetings for one right after another during a specific time frame, so I don’t lose travel time going to and from random meetings here and there. Pick a day or two per week that you schedule appointments.

Hitting up a conference or two is a big MUST. I know this brings a financial component, but it is a necessary expense to expand knowledge and meet others in your space. The internet and the overall accessibility that it brings allow us to network nationally, but meeting a few of these connections in real time really helps the process. Take the plunge and go - make the most of the experience.

**Tip: Keep costs to a minimum by driving to a conference with some of the connections you make locally or attend a conference in a city where you can stay with friends or family.

What do you think? Do you like to get out there and meet other startup business people?

What are your tips?

Written by: Rachel Blaufeld

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