Most business owners engage in networking! It’s great for personal development and confidence building, but most importantly it’s probably the most cost effective way to generate new business.
If you believe that networking is a viable way to generate new business, then you should commit to and develop a networking strategy and plan.
Developing a strategy and a plan will help you to maximise the opportunities when you attend different events.
The actual events that you choose (or choose not) to attend will directly impact how successful your networking strategy becomes.
These are the main different types of networking events –
Casual Contact Events
Often a great place for inexperienced networkers to start! These events are usually informal and relaxed. You should expect to meet a broad range of connections from lots of different industry sectors. It’s likely that there won’t be a membership fee, usually there’s a nominal meeting fee.
Strong Contact Events
These events are more formal and much more structured. An annual joining fee is usually required to gain membership. As well as financial commitment, joining a Strong Contact Event group also needs personal commitment.
Community Groups and Forums
Rotary is a good example of this type of group. The intention is usually to create a positive impact for local charities or communities. Committing to these events can be a good way to implement part of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy.
Industry Specific Networking
Usually ran by professional or trade associations. Membership fees and rules on attendance vary.
The audience at these events are limited to your industry. However, it’s a great opportunity to meet and share knowledge with industry leaders.
Conferences, Trade Shows and Exhibitions
The style of these events is similar to a Casual Contact Event. They probably aren’t advertised as ‘networking’, but they are undoubtedly great opportunities to connect with like minded individuals. They can be busy, crowded and fast paced.
Private Invitation Only Events
These ‘invitation only’ events are usually hosted by companies or organisations. They could be drinks receptions, launch events or awards dinners. Again, they’re not advertised as ‘networking events’, but most people in attendance will be engaging in networking of sorts.
These groups aren’t primarily about business, but they’re a great way to develop long term business relationships. Members share a hobby or a common interest in areas such as sports, music, crafts or religion.
Women Only Networking
Recently there has been an increase in Women Only Networking Groups. These groups fall into all of the categories mentioned above. They’re designed to support women who feel uncomfortable attending meetings or events that are strongly dominated by men.
Initially I recommend attending lots of different types of networking events whilst keeping an open mind.
Different people naturally prefer different situations and environments. When developing your networking strategy and plan, it’s important to know which events ‘work for you’ and make you feel comfortable and relaxed.
In my Guide, ‘What Everybody Ought To Know About Networking’, I break networking planning down into 3 stages –
Preparation – Preparing A Networking Strategy
Networking – What To Do At The Event
Following Up – What To Do After the Event
Click here to find out more about ‘What Everybody Ought To Know About Networking’.