It can be daunting walking into a room full of people; this is completely understandable, and most people feel the same, at least when they start. It is important to remember that you all have a lot in common, just by being there. This gives you a lot to talk about:

  • everyone runs a business – so ask them what they do, how they got started and why, what they most/least enjoy doing, if they have any particular problems or challenges at the moment, or have experienced any recent successes
  • everyone wants to move forwards in some way – ask them where they see their business going, what their goals and ambitions are
  • everyone is probably fairly local – ask if they know anyone who does whatever it is you are looking for, whether it is a service for your business (e.g. an accountant) or a market (e.g. hotels you could approach to sell your cakes to)
  • everyone has some experience of networking – ask them about other groups they belong to or have tried; ask about the format of this group, what they find most interesting or helpful; if this is also their first time, you can always ask them what they think of it so far, how they found out about it, who invited them, and so on.

People love to talk about themselves – all you need to do is ask questions, and you will find out so much about them. Obviously you need to be prepared to talk about your business too, along the same lines, but if you focus on the other person, you won’t go far wrong.