Networking Events: Expect the Best
How can I find networking events in my area and what should I bring and expect.
Answer: This question comes from a recent client who had always progressed into new positions by getting noticed and being asked to move up the ladder or to other organizations. Now, as many Americans are discovering, he needs a different strategy now.
My client was not comfortable with the idea of going someplace to “network” and wasn’t even sure where to begin. So we went through Google together and hit on 261,000 results with “Business Networking in Troy, MI”.
Going down the list there were local BNI, LBN and Chamber groups from Troy and surrounding communities. There were churches and colleges hosting activities and events too. We also found several independent networking groups including Oakland County networking groups and my favorite, Motor City Connect/MCC.
We then found smaller niche groups such a restaurant owner/manager group, a retail management group, a media group and a small business owner’s group. All this on the first 2 pages!! With so many groups to choose from it wasn’t hard to get started. I suggested he try several and find 2 or 3 that he really liked and invest time in those groups.
The second part of the question involved knowing what to bring and expect at the meetings?
Attending networking groups can be scary the first couple of times but they shouldn’t be. Every meeting I’ve attended has been very friendly and helpful. Some places have weekly, monthly and annual fees, others are pay as you go and some are even free. All have their pros and cons, and most of the groups with fees allow visitors to attend for free.
When you go you should dress professionally, bring something to write on and with and bring your networking/contact cards. If you don’t have any yet – order some today! Include your personal contact information on the front; name, address, phone, email, web address, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other information you’d like on it. The backside can include a skill set or bullet points of your value or achievements.
Even more importantly bring your curiosity and friendliness or at least responsiveness. Think of it as a party where you go introduce yourself and get to know the other person or persons around you. Remember you are there to meet new people and contacts and help other people. So, ask questions, get to know the others, have fun, and see if there are ways you can help them. You’ve got many contacts available to you that might be able share to help someone there.
Some groups are very ritualistic others are more lenient in their order of business. Most will provide time for you to talk exclusively to the group, only for a few seconds or minutes – no speeches. Usually and introduction, greeting, 30 second commercial or a question and you’re done!
Networking is amazing – the people who attend are motivated to make friends, contacts, and help others so you’ll find people going out of their way to try and help you. Expect results. A computer technician I spoke with last week said his business has gone up 800% in a year! Appreciate and Reciprocate!