American entrepreneur Armstrong Williams once said that networking is an essential part of building wealth. For a small business owner, networking can also be a source of support, fresh ideas and new business opportunities. We’ve put together the events and groups to join in every area of South Africa, as well as tips on making the most of every new encounter.
Diarise these entrepreneurial networking events in South Africa:
Formerly The Festival of Entrepreneurship, the THUDfest festival is produced by The Hookup Dinner and will be hosted in four key cities, namely Johannesburg, Durban, Tshwane and Cape Town from the 16th – 20th November 2015. Join fellow entrepreneurs in a range of workshops, pitching sessions, exhibitions and markets that will showcase the innovation taking place within the start-up ecosystem. Entry is free, register at www.thudfest.co
Join Africa's largest gathering of executives, professionals and entrepreneurs. Usually in September at the Sandton Convention Centre. More information here: www.leader.co.za
My Biz Expo Johannesburg
The National Small Business Chamber hosts two My Biz Expo events a year – a wealth of ideas and opportunities for start-ups, including networking events. At the event, there will also be Build a Business Live, The Franchise Show and Access to Finance Indaba.
Johannesburg: 10 March 2016, Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, Johannesburg.
Register here: www.mybizexpo.co.za
Cape Town: 25 August 2016, Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC)
Register here: www.mybizexpo.co.za
Startup Grind Durban
Keep an eye on the Durban version of Google’s Start-up Grind for inspiring talks and networking opportunities: www.startupgrind.com/durban/
The Durban Innovation Hub and Startup Nations South Africa have come together to form Start-up KZN, which is envisioned as a driving force for entrepreneurship in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Visit: www.startupkzn.org.za and www.durbanhub.co.za for more info
The National Small Business Chamber will host a national road show in winter 2016 entitled Breakfast Connect, where you can meet and mix with like-minded entrepreneurs and innovators. Keep an eye on the NSBC event calendar here.
BNI South Africa
BNI is an international organisation that works on a word of mouth/referral marketing principle. It has over 100 chapters in South Africa (you can see the full list here). They only allow one person per profession so if you can be, for example, the first hair salon, this could be a good source of referrals.
5 tips on good networking at a conference
You’ve booked your spot at a conference or talk. Here’s how to go about meeting new people and padding out your little black book of contacts.
- Do your homework: Research who will be speaking and exhibiting at the event, as well as fellow attendees, then work out a plan of action as to how you can approach these people to make a new connection. You could even email them beforehand and say that you would love to meet up, then arrange a time in-between sessions for a quick meet and greet.
- Look smart and introduce yourself: Dress smartly – remember first impressions count – and don’t be shy to introduce yourself to people, whether at a stall, over lunch or in the audience. Practice your ‘elevator pitch’ beforehand and keep it short. Most people at a conference attend solo and feel just as awkward as you – they will be only happy to have someone to talk to.
- Be ready with business cards: Make sure you have enough business cards to hand out, or prepare a specific promo sheet in case you get a chance to pitch your business to a new prospect. If you are planning on collecting a lot of business cards, this Evernote app makes data capturing easy – no internet required.
- Connect on social media: If you are active on Facebook and Twitter, be sure to follow presenters and attendees, and make positive comments on talks to raise your profile.
- Follow up: If you make a new connection, follow up with an email as soon as possible. If you have time, note down what you spoke about and mention this again in your follow-up email to make it more personal and relevant.
Finally, if you are looking for a particular industry or group – e.g. women entrepreneurs or black business owners – this list from Entrepreneurmag is a good resource to bookmark.