How effective is Networking and does it work? There are so many different types it is hard to know what works and what doesn’t.

Whether you are seeking a new job, looking to create job security within your company, or you are interested in building new client relationships for your business, networking is now more important than ever.

Over the course of the last few years, I have attended a lot of different events and networking sessions to see what I enjoyed and what worked well for me and my business. I have been to everything from informal coffee mornings, structured members only early breakfast meetings, members only lunches, speed networking and a variety of formal events and seminars with networking opportunities.

I wanted to see which Networking events were worth continuing with as well as looking at the paid memberships and which, if any, gave me a return on investment.

I have met some amazing business people across York, Scarborough and Hull and made some great friendships with other business owners which I wasn’t expecting at all. I have found that having other people in the same position as you to talk to can really help, as it’s difficult running your own company. Some of the less formal coffee mornings have allowed me to build a strong network of people that I can honestly say would be able to support and offer any advice or guidance if I needed them.

I have enjoyed a lot of the larger events and seminars as I found that I was keeping up to date with any local business / economic information. It helped to keep me informed of what is happening around me as well as giving me the opportunity to speak to more medium to large businesses, that ordinarily I may not have had the chance to speak to before.

For me, the more structured early breakfast referral networking groups are the least effective. I believe that they are great for those who are self-employed or small businesses who can dedicate their time to attend every week,  as they will certainly see a return on their investment.I am unable to commit to going every week as I have a family, as well as the needs of my business dictating that I may be needed on another appointment instead.

Certain networking groups charge a membership fee which is a big commitment, and only being able to try a couple of events before making this commitment can be difficult. However, the extra benefits that the organisation can offer may help you with your decision. Some will offer Legal advice and guidance, or others will offer a directory of other members, so you automatically have contact details for any other businesses you want to speak to. Some will become your friends of the future and will be there when you need them most.

I found speed networking fun and tiring, as you don’t stop speaking for the duration of the event. The trick with this type of networking is to make sure you keep everyone’s details, make a couple of notes and follow up after the event with anyone of interest. This type of networking is there to help you to speak to as many people as possible and it “does what it says on the tin”. It is not for the faint hearted, or those new to networking, as you certainly need to have your “Elevator” pitch worked out; 2 minutes is not long to sell yourself and the benefits of using your business.

For anyone new to networking I would suggest starting with the less formal events such as coffee mornings or drinks after work, as there is no pressure and you will meet a great bunch of people. However, if you are looking for a clear-cut event that will work every time, I haven’t found one I am afraid. I have realised that networking is about the “long game” as a lot of the relationships I am building now, may not need my services for a while to come. An example of this is a business owner I met at an event back in January rang me in October to recruit for them.

Try a variety of events and see what sits well for you and your business, it is different for everyone and you cant go to everything, so pick and choose wisely.