For a lot of business people, networking can feel like a slightly cringeworthy waste of time, but pretty much anyone who has made a success of their business will have an instinctive feel for networking. If you have a look around, you should easily be able to find some networking events around you – I go to the British Portuguese Chamber of Commerce event that is held in Porto on the first Wednesday of every month and I would strongly recommend anyone based in the North of Portugal to come along (please send me an email if you would like an introduction to the event – you do not need to be a member of the chamber to attend and nor do you need to be British, just interested in business).
The advantage of these networking events is not necessarily direct business that come from it, although that is always a bonus. The main thing is talking to people who are running a business in similar circumstances to you, so that you can swap stories and here opinions. When you are running a business, sometimes you are taken up with the day-to-day problem solving that will inevitably take up much of your time, that you do not pause to think strategically. Just the fact that you need to explain your business to other people and answer their questions can help you to think about your own business in a more analytical way. Before you go to an event, it is a good idea to think about how you are going to approach it so that you get the most out of it – have a look for some advice online for example like this.
One final thought, the art of networking is not so much about making that one vital contact at a particular event, but by playing a long game, you can gradually build up a meaningful set of contacts that amounts to more than just a stack of business cards, which might bring you benefits that you had never considered.