I’m a keen networker and there are so many groups to choose from around the Thames Valley that it can be a little overwhelming and I still haven’t visited loads of them. But I do passionately believe that networking is the key to securing new business. I won’t pretend that new business comes in overnight, but I have built up valuable contacts, from other public relations and marketing people, to those running their own businesses and people working for all types and sizes of organisations. These contacts are invaluable because I can ask their advice to help me run my own business; or because I can give them advice which means they then know what skills I have and will recommend me to potential clients. Meeting people face to face can never be underestimated and networking, mixed with social networking activity ( I favour LinkedIn and Twitter) I believe is one of the best ways to grow your business.

These are just three of the networking groups I have regularly attended. I will add more when I feel that I qualify to speak about others!

I recently joined B4 Berkshire as an ambassador. B4 went live in January 2012, following in the successful footsteps of B4 Oxfordshire, which has just celebrated its 10th birthday. The B4 model comprises a printed magazine, web based directory and quarterly Ambassador events, as well as offering business workshops from a variety of experts. I would recommend the B4 network to anyone who wants to engage with the business community across Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

For a more regular and informal networking experience, Business Biscotti has groups which meet up all over the UK, including dozens of venues in the Thames Valley. I’ve been to Oxford, Reading and Wantage so far, and have been welcomed into this friendly format, where you buy your own coffee (or not!) then get to meet what I have found to be a very varied group of start-ups, sole traders, small and large companies and charities – something for everyone.

Another different formula for networking comes from The Late Breakfast which as its name implies, spares us all having to get up at the crack of dawn, at it runs between 9.00 – 10.30 am. However, that may not suit everyone as it does mean not starting the working day until around 11 or 12 midday. But then networking is work really. This group  provides networking on arrival then an expert speaker entertains and informs for about 45 minutes. Everyone has the chance to make a brief mention of any upcoming events, then more networking before everyone moves on. You pay £10 on the door for the quality networking, speaker and tasty breakfast! You can choose from monthly gatherings in Abingdon, Didcot, Chalgrove and Thame. I’d advise visiting them all!

The Wantage & District  Business Breakfast Club meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 07.45 am. The venue varies, but is in the Wantage area (no surprises there!)  They start off with informal networking as everyone arrives, then a sit down breakfast – when you quickly have to decide who you want to sit next to for the rest of the meeting! Newcomers have the chance to talk for a minute or two about what they do and there’s a chance for anyone to talk about any events they have coming up. They take no prisoners at this networking meeting – it finishes at 9.00am. They have a brilliant monthly newsletter aptly called Eggs and Bacon!