The Networker #3: Choosing The Right Networking Group
You’ve started your business. Great.
Now you need people to know about you.
Many will advise to go networking.
*Googles networking events near me*
Wow – how many?!
In this edition, I’ll arm you with considerations when navigating the jungle of networking events, to find ones best suited to you and your business.
Making your networking work better.
So, if you’re new to networking, or reassessing your current options, use this as a filter.
A few years ago, I met a woman at an exhibition who changed my perception of networking.
And helped me understand the challenges she, and many other business owners, faced and still face.
In reply to me sharing I run a networking organisation, she said; “oh I’ve tried networking, but it didn’t work for me.”
Naturally, I questioned why.
She was looking to start networking because she’d just launched a new business.
After a quick search for local events, she found dozens. So, decided to try a couple out.
But it was a train crash.
The events were terrible. She hated them.
As we dug into why, I learned that she didn’t enjoy the format, the attendees weren’t a good fit, there was no chemistry with the guests, and the organisation was poor.
She therefore assumed that was how all networking events were.
She’d given up her precious time and money, and lost the motivation already. Before even really getting started.
She is not alone. I’ve heard this very similar experience from many.
So, how do you choose? What should you consider?
Networking is not one-size-fits-all.
And the sooner you realise that you and some events won’t align, the sooner your networking experience becomes much more fruitful (and enjoyable).
You don’t have a bad experience at a restaurant, and never go to another restaurant again.
You wouldn’t go to an Italian if you preferred an Indian either.
The same applies to networking.
There are many different groups and styles (or cuisines).
It’s about having a well balanced diet (I’ll stop with the restaurant/food puns now).
It’s about finding the right groups and events that suit both you AND your business.
When you find that, the results flow easier.
Here are my top six considerations:
1. Your Target Market
Surrounding yourself with the right people you’re looking to meet is a good place to start.
Who are you looking to rub shoulders with? Think geographic, demographic and psychographic.
Where are they based? Size of businesses? Who are the decision makers? How do they think?
A good event will explain this in the booking information.
But it can feel a bit like needing a crystal ball as it’s not always obvious. Followed by the fear of wasting your time going and it not being right.
So, if in doubt, ask the organisers.
They’ll be able to share who attends regularly, the types of members, and offer any guidance if it’s the right event for you.
Which leads me nicely to my next point.
2. The Organisers – Who Is Behind It?
The feel, style, and quality of an event is a result of the organisers.
What’s their purpose? Do they have a track record? Is it their full time business or a side hustle?
If you’re dedicating your time and budget, you want to ensure it’s with an organisation that knows what they’re doing and looking out for you.
What are their values? What do they live by?
This will be a good indication of the members and attendees they attract.
Speak to the organisers behind the event. Get to know them and do your due diligence.
Any network worth being part of will do that same for you to ensure you’re right for them.
And don’t be disheartened if they point you to a more appropriate group – thank them.
Teeing me up for point 3.
3. Your Networking Style v Structure
It’s important to network in environments you can be your most authentic self.
I’ve observed it in both cases:
Introverts being overwhelmed by the amount of people at large events, or the open structure, they come across unnaturally. Not offering a true reflection of them and their business.
The same for extroverts at smaller events. They can dominate a room, overpower it, and not shine the best light on themselves.
If you’re in the first group? Consider smaller events with more of a rigid structure.
If the latter, the more free flowing and informal events with more people could work better.
Whilst I’ve seen people adapt to the different environment, if you’re just starting, go where you’re going to be your best self most naturally.
A mix of event styles is good, if you can be a ‘networking chameleon’. But avoid networking where you can’t be your true self.
When you know, it’ll be like walking into a room with a group of old friends.
4. Time of Day
Some are early risers and want to get networking done.
Some prefer it in the day during their work schedule.
Some prefer after work.
Everyone has their preference. And for good reason.
For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself to an event at 6.30am.
Or don’t go after work if you’re going to be glancing at your watch thinking when you can get home.
Just like above – network where you’ll be your most authentic self.
The result is you turn up with the wrong attitude and energy. Or you’ll start to resent it.
5. Frequency of Events
Consistency is key to networking (as you hopefully learned in The Networker edition #2).
Events can range from weekly to quarterly.
Is weekly too much to juggle around other commitments? Is quarterly too little?
Assess your time, along with the needs of your business and the stage it’s at.
Work out what you’ll be able to commit to consistently. Then show up, be present and add value.
Be a farmer, not a hunter.
6. The Stage of Your Business
Certain events will serve you better at different stages of your business as you grow.
I had an instance where a new business was looking to join Network My Club.
But whilst we did events in that area, it wasn’t the event frequency or with the demographic that best suited them.
Therefore, I advised a couple of alternative networks I felt a better fit for them given the current stage their business was at.
8 months later, they came back to me, thanked me for my advice and shared it had helped them get going and grow, and were now in a better position to join.
Most satisfyingly, they’d had a positive networking experience, seeing the impact it can make.
Turning them into an avid networker.
A win for them. A win for us. A win for networking.
Different Networks for Different Needs
(If you read that in the voice of David Brent from The Office, you’re a friend of mine)
The beauty of networking is you can be part of multiple groups.
My advice? Assess the above, and be part of 2-5 groups.
You can then:
- Commit regularly
- Attend consistently
- Be present at events
- Build a richer and more diverse network
- Focus on quality networking, rather than quantity
Achieving that sets you up to make your networking work. And that makes networking a better place for everyone.
Remember, it’s not ‘one-size-fits-all’.
Go find your fit.
What Is The Networker?
The weekly newsletter for business owners and sales leaders to level up their networking.
1 networking tip, trend or tidbit – every Wednesday morning.
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