To grow your massage practice, you need a steady flow of new clients. People must first know how your skills can benefit them before they will trust you can help them. Networking is important for new massage therapists looking to start their own practice.

To launch and grow a thriving practice, try these face-to-face networking suggestions:

1. Do your homework. Before you arrive, conduct some research about the type of people you will likely be interacting with at an event to give you ideas for conversation starters and possible topics of interest.

2. Stay upbeat and sound positive. People are naturally more attracted to those who are pleasant and have an inviting smile.

3. Practice makes perfect. You will be more at ease if you practice some icebreakers and ways to present yourself. Make an effort to talk to a new person every day. You can practice at home in your mirror, too.

4. Establish and maintain connections. Joining a board or professional organization is a good way for potential clients to learn about your giving, caring demeanor. Jot down some notes and contact information after you’ve made a connection. This will help you remember the details as well as enable you to stay in touch with those who you wish to pursue a working relationship. And at the same time, you’ll help your organization through service.

5. Be generous with your own information, experiences, talents, contacts and resources. By referring people to others, volunteering or helping out with a project or event, people will remember you and be more likely to think of you in the future. Referrals are reciprocal by their very nature.

If you’re shy and would like to hone your networking skills at home, connecting with new clients may also be accomplished by:

6. Writing a regular health-related column in a local publication. In addition to free advertising, readers will learn about your approach and philosophy about health and healing.

7. Using the Internet. Increase the likelihood of being noticed; get your name and information about your practice on as many online directories as possible. Be sure to learn the basics about search engine marketing and blogs.

8. Distributing your business cards. Bring your business cards into local businesses and ask if they will post it on a board or if you may place a stack for the public to take. You can offer to place their cards at your massage office, too.

Use these networking tips to widen your circle of prospective clients, and start growing your new massage practice today.

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac. is a regular contributing writer to the Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies.