Whether you’re starting your own new business or trying to expand your current small business —networking can be your life support. Networking can propel your business to the next level professionally, while also simultaneously enhancing different aspects of your personal life.

The trick to effective networking is to develop lasting relationships, so it is important to be genuine in all your actions. To do this you must listen, be patient, and understand the needs of others— while also understanding your own needs too and what you can benefit from others. Social media can be a great networking platform, but it is no substitute for face-to-face communication. Your local library will often offer free programs, seminars and workshops – on topics such as social media, taxes, the law, networking, using a computer, digital design, franchising and more. These can be a great opportunity to meet other small business owners who might be looking for your product or service, or the people you meet might know someone that could benefit from your offerings.

Sometimes there are not the types of networking events that suit your needs, so why not conduct your own seminar or training session to draw out networking opportunities? The key is to develop a training session or seminar that will attract the types of contacts that you want to develop in you network and hopefully turn those networking contacts into customers.

Once you have developed an idea for a training or seminar idea, you need to develop into a seminar that will compel people to attend and want to stay. The last thing you want is for half your audience to not come back after a break. Use lots of visuals and keep reminding your audience the benefit what you are teaching them holds for them. Sometimes conducting a good seminar or training session can actually deliver you new customers or clients.

Next you have to decide where to hold your seminar or training session. If you work from home and do not have a place to hold your session, you could consider a public library but is that really a professional environment? You also want to choose a location that will enable people to be comfortable while “networking” before and after your event. An ideal location is an office business centre that rents office space, provides virtual office services and rents training and seminar rooms by the day. The ideal business centre is one that is central and easily accessed by your target audience, it also helps to reinforce your professionalism if the location is also the same location as you list as your business address. For $30 per month you can have your business mailing address at a prestigious business address and get discounted rates on the use of training and seminar rooms. Before booking a seminar or training room, you should create a checklist for the thing you require from a training room or seminar location.

It is key to remember that seminars and training sessions are ideal for business to business networking when participants are from a variety of industries. The networking portion of your session can be less effective for gaining business if the participants come from direct competitors or those offering similar products or services as your business. In other words, look to market your session outside of your own industry and target those who will most benefit from what you offer.

When you are looking to market and fill your seminar or training session, there are some great websites and social media places that can help you:

Meetup.com is the world’s largest network of local groups. You’ll find everything here from business networking events, singles events, to yoga classes, dog walking groups (by breed!) and more. You can set up a free account and sign up to post your event in your local area.

Eventbrite allows users to search for events by location and category. It also allows your participants to register for your event as well as easily share events with their connections.
Eventful is an events website which not only to lists your seminars and events, it also has a social networking aspect allowing participants to connect with other users.

LinkedIn has an events section listed right on your homepage. Click on one of the events to get to events section where you can search for events in your area. You’ll also list your events, lectures,classes, and seminars on many of the Group pages.

Facebook allows participants to see events their friends are hosting or attending, and letss them share those events with others. You can also post events on Fan pages and within Groups.

Craigslist and Kijiji are large classified sites which also allow you to post listings of events and classes.