Professional networking when you’re a small business owner is vital, but it can also be challenging when you don’t know where to turn. Professional networking puts you in touch with business opportunities, such as new clients and potential partnerships.

So it should definitely be at the top of the list of things to do when you have a business to run. Chances are you want to give it a shot because you’ve heard how integral it is to market your brand, yet you don’t know where to start .

Below are 10 ways you can network as a small business owner

 Happy Hour Networking Meet-ups

These more informal gatherings are of tremendous use to small business owners. The casual, more relaxed environment can even be a huge plus if you’re a bit shy or unsure of how to approach people at networking events. For super suggestions on how to overcome shyness and confidently network, see our guide on networking.

 Breakfast Networking

What could be more disarming than gathering to eat while forming business relationships? Such an event is best for morning people who come caffeinated, ready to share ideas, ask questions, and form mutually beneficial relationships. There is one advantage to this approach: You get to have the first crack at potential contacts, employers, clients and partners before they are besieged with various other requests and offers throughout their workday. Since your networking peers will be full of energy, it’s also a good opportunity to gain cooperation from them you may not otherwise get.

 Industry-Specific Events with Speakers

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Going to an event featuring popular business speakers is a perfect learning opportunity for small businesses. Ideally, you want to attend one of these forums that features speakers directly related to your business or focus. For instance, if you’re in charge of marketing for your small business, bring along an employee you want to groom to slowly take over this position from you if there are going to be marketing-specific speakers on hand.

 Roundtable Meetings

Roundtable events are meant to help business owners get more info and know-how about their industry by communicating directly with their peers in the same situation as they are. Roundtables promote both open exchanges and discussions that are very useful in the march toward new ideas and solutions to problems and issues that entrepreneurs have. Should you happen to suffer a block on a project, proposal or initiative, then a roundtable event is a fertile environment for new sets of eyes to help you see things a bit differently.

Conferences

Conferences attract the best and brightest from all across a region, country or even the world, which makes them highly valuable resources for business owners. From the sheer number of people who attend, it’s a great opportunity to build up your contact list, attend workshops, listen to speakers talking about problems you’re facing in your journey as an entrepreneur, and even rent out a booth for a more palpable presence for your brand.

 LinkedIn

This huge social network exclusively for business networking is ideal for those with small businesses, as there are tons of people who are potential networking contacts there. Also, a number of them are actively looking to connect through LinkedIn. You can search for people in your industry, join and start networking groups or forums, follow big-name influencers (think of this as going to speakers’ events, but staying in front of your desktop or mobile device instead), publish content to brand yourself as an authority in your industry, and so much more.

Tweet Chats

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Twitter’s tweet chats are available to anyone to join as long as they use the appropriate and specified hashtag for the particular chat. Many authority figures and people host chats on Twitter at set times each week and month for specific industries or issues of interest. To network with your industry peers, simply log into Twitter at the right time, use the correct hashtag to filter your comments to the right participants, and ask away through comments. Communicate similar to a face-to-face networking event, expressing your thoughts on the subject, contributing to the conversation, and meeting new people in your industry (while keeping your words to 140 characters or less, of course).

Online Conferences

Conferences don’t always have to be in person. In fact, some of the most popular ones occur on the web. Instead of having to worry about buying a plane ticket and accommodation, you can just attend the event in front of my computer. Makes it easier to attend.

Be Nice to Everyone You Meet

The saying“be nice to the people on the way up because you never know when you’ll be meeting them on the way down.” holds true.  The world is getting smaller all the time.  Don’t burn any bridges and be genuinely nice to everyone.

Communicate

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Maintain regular and consistent contact with the people in your database.  One of the most successful communication tactics is to periodically meet people in your network face to face.  It’s much more personal, and much more fun too.

Also remember while networking professionally, the more people you talk to, ask questions of, help out, give advice to, and simply communicate with, the more your chances of finding that new client, partner, mentor or business opportunity. And finally, Hand Out Business Cards. This helps your new connections remember and refer to you efficiently