Whether you are seeking a new job, looking to create job security in your company, or interested in building new client relationships for your business, networking is now more important than ever, however, there are so many different types it is hard to know what works and what doesn’t.
With a fairly new business, I have spent most of this year attending 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.
For me, I wanted to see which ones were worth paying for memberships and which ones gave me a return on investment.
Throughout the year, 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 its 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 do so 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, but for me and my industry, I cant commit to being able to go 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.
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 enable 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 informal coffee mornings or drinks after work as there is no pressure there 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.