I tried that networking meeting and it wasn't any good - I didn't meet anyone worthwhile..
"I tried that networking meeting and it wasn't any good - I didn't meet anyone worthwhile" How often have you heard that refrain or something very similar. It seems that a lot of people in business take this view of the current business phenomenon of Networking. There are no shortage of opportunities to network from weekly breakfast meetings to evening dining clubs and everything in between. But just how do you make networking an effective experience? That is a question I get asked often during my networking travels.
I believe that the keys to effective networking are setting realistic expectations and being prepared to make the event work for you. One of the more popular types of events is Speed Networking taking its format from the Speed Dating scene. It isn't a bad analogy to use when looking at networking. You wouldn't expect a marriage proposal after meeting someone for sixty seconds so why should you expect to do business with someone after hearing their sixty second business pitch. Most relationships take a few dates, lots of chat and sharing of personal information to establish a potential future together. It isn't any different for a business relationship. When you start networking for your business, choose one or two types of event or club and commit to attending them for at least six months before making judgement on their effectiveness.
Now that you have committed to a networking group, you have to be prepared to make the most of each event and that takes planning before you set foot in the door. It may seem obvious to say "Remember your Business Cards" but I don't know how often I have been to a business networking event and met someone really interesting and asked for their card only to be told that they have run out or didn't bring any&.there is no excuse - your business card is one of the most important tools you can carry around. Always pop some extra in - just in case.
Do your homework before you go. Who is likely to be there? What are you looking for? These two questions can be vitally important to making a network event effective. Some of the most experienced and successful networkers I have met are prepared at all times to ask for help. It might be that you want to meet the Head of Procurement of a large organisation. Large organisations just don't come out to network meetings so you might be put off at the first hurdle and think that a meeting will not bring you the desired result. On the contrary go to the meeting and ask everyone you meet if they know someone who can get you in front of your business target. I will be very surprised if you don't leave the meeting with at least one link in the communication chain towards your goal.
Self employed people and business owners are often more successful at networking meetings than employees. Employees are normally sent along by their manager but without a long term strategy in mind. It usually is the case of one visit - report back to the office that there wasn't anyone "worthwhile" there - resulting in the manager deciding that no future events would be on the cards. Many medium sized organisations have not yet realised the importance of networking as a cost effective way of developing new business. Too often the delegated employee is inexperienced or lacking in company knowledge. Medium size companies should send the most senior representative possible on a regular basis to get the best out of an event. And an additional bonus will be that their company gains a good reputation in the SME marketplace as one who 'cares'
So if you are part of a large organisation, self employed or even a new start, networking can be one of the cheapest ways to seek new business. Compared to a magazine advertisement campaign which will leave you with little change out of several thousand pounds or a glossy mailshot most of which go straight to the recycling bin, pound for pound it is the most effective method to meet potential buyers and suppliers for your business. It can be a marriage made in heaven but as any couple married for many years will tell you, it takes time and effort to reach those golden times.