When most people think of networking, they immediately think of boring events where they are pressured to sell themselves to people they don’t know. They dread it. It’s one of the least favorable things about running and growing a business for some people.

It doesn’t have to be so bad, though. Actually, it could be downright fun, if you know how to make it that way. That’s why we’ve come up with some creative ways for you to start networking in a more enjoyable way.

  1. Get Involved in Your Community

Just stepping out into your community can be a way to network. Join a gym, exercise class or take up a new hobby in which you meet with people with similar interests. As you meet new people and talk with them, you will eventually discuss work, and that’s how you can find people who may be able to help you with your business and vice versa.

  1. Reconnect With People

While you may have gone down different paths, there’s no reason your paths can’t come together again. Reach out to people you’ve worked with in the past or just were friendly with at one time. As long as the separation wasn’t a negative one, there may be an opportunity available to connect and work together.

  1. Use Social Media

You’re likely on social media as much as others, so why not use some of the time to network? LinkedIn is a great professional networking site, but Facebook and Twitter are good too. Once you connect with people on these sites, see if you can take it offline to really benefit from networking.

  1. Reach Out to People Locally

You can do this in two ways: email people by finding their email address on websites, or call businesses to get in touch with them. Don’t keep people on the phone for long when you call because, as you know, we are all busy. Simply introduce yourself and state the reason why you want to connect. Offer to set up a meeting to discuss your thoughts more.

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering your time takes the pressure off of networking because you’re doing something good for people or the environment. As you’re working, you will meet people and discuss what you do for paid work. This could lead to some great connections.

  1. Be the Talk of the Town With Fun Meetups

Meetup.com is a great site to meet local professionals, but many people don’t follow through with a Meetup because they end up bored or feel unproductive with them. You can change that by having a plan for your Meetups, offering food and beverages, and helping attendees connect with one another to benefit from the meetings.

  1. Connect With People Before an Event

Instead of walking into a networking event not knowing a single person, why not find out who may be there and reach out online? You can start discussing what you’re doing and what the person is doing right now, and then take it offline at the event. It feels so much better when you can walk in, look for the person you connected with online, and meet in person. This will help you become much more comfortable faster, so you can meet more people that you haven’t been able to connect with yet.

  1. Hold Your Own Event

When you hold your own networking event, you are the host, and that usually brings out something in people that they aren’t able to replicate when they’re just attendees. Find a location to hold the event, put an ad in the local paper, let local business organizations know about it, and market it online. The more you get the word out, the more people will attend.

  1. Talk to Strangers More

As you go about your day, you probably don’t realize there are networking possibilities all around you. Even picking up your morning coffee is an opportunity for you to network. Speak to the person behind or in front of you while in a line; strike up a conversation with the barista or the waiter at lunch. No matter where you go, be friendly and ask questions. You may just find some people who would be great to connect with later to discuss working together.

  1. Start a Fundraiser

Start a fundraiser to help an organization. You’ll meet a lot of people with money to donate, and this could lead you to entrepreneurs and business owners who may be looking to network with people just like you.

As you can see, networking can be fun. You just have to find a way to do it that fits your personality. Use some of these suggestions or come up with your own, and soon, you’ll be having fun with networking and growing your business exponentially.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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