How To Choose A Networking Group

October seems to be prime time for networking  – I am attending three events just this week alone. But when you run your own business time is your most valuable commodity so you have to use it wisely as not only are you spending your time attending meetings but when you get back to the office all the work is still waiting for you!

But how do you find the best networking groups for you and your business? These are some factors to consider:

Date / Location

So yes this is an obvious starting place but please do not skip this section as I wanted to make a deeper point.

All of us can make arrangements to get along to a meeting once; even I who am not good at very early mornings can manage that, however committing on a regular basis is a different matter. If attending a networking event means making complicated arrangements or a long distance to travel then you are not going to be able to attend very often.

Networking is a long term plan – you need to attend regularly for it to work – so look carefully at a group’s meeting schedule – does it really work for you on a long term basis?

 

Meeting Format

Structured networking is where the organiser runs a session enabling you to tell as many people as possible (briefly) about your business and for you to find out about other people’s businesses.

So we have the one minute round of introductions, table networking – where you introduce yourself to the table and then move between tables or speed networking (which can be great fun if properly organised!).

Alternatively there is Open Networking where you simply circulate round the room yourself talking to people.

You will need to decide which is best for you and your business. Personally I will always prioritise events with some structured networking as I want the opportunity to tell as many people as possible about my business and find out about theirs… and no I don’t mean do this in a pushy or “salesy” way but we are there to do business and as I mentioned in the beginning time is my most valuable commodity so I want to use it productively.

However I also enjoy open networking sessions as they enable you to have proper conversations with people and find out much more about them and their business.

Some groups will do a mixture of both – an ideal solution!

 

Numbers Attending

This is not as important a factor as people often think it is. I have been to fabulous meetings where we barely got into double figures and equally great ones where there were 100 people. With smaller numbers you get the chance to talk in depth with people and often have really useful wider ranging business conversations; with larger meetings there can be a real buzz and you come away exhausted but energised. However both extremes need a lot of management / input from the organiser (see below).

 

Regulars / New Visitor Split

I consider this to be one of the most important factors in a successful group (and one that is often overlooked). What is the spilt between regulars and new visitors.

You need a high a proportion of regulars who help set the tone and feel of the event but equally you want a good number of new attendees too as you want to keep spreading the word about your business to new people. Ask the organiser for the split.

 

Organisation

Successful networking meetings (of either the Structured or Open style) do not just happen. They need to be planned and managed, both beforehand and on the day itself. (A good test of any group is how the organiser looks after you when you turn up for the first time).

Most importantly you should always know the format / structure in advance so you can be prepared. So don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask the organiser how the meeting runs.

 

The Tone Of The Meeting

Finally, the most difficult to define, yet perhaps the most important factor in your considerations and something you can really only assess by going along (or talking to people who already attend).

Is there a buzz when you arrive? Does the organiser greet you with a smile and an explanation of the event? Are the regulars friendly? Does the meeting have energy? Do people stay talking after the structured part of the meeting is over?

Fundamentally the success of any networking is about the people that attend. I always say that the people that come along to Coffee and Connect are warm, friendly, welcoming to new visitors and definitely not pushy though they are very business focussed too.

 

Get Booked In Now!

Business networking  is a great way to help grow your business so what are you waiting for – get booked into some meetings now!

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