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It’s A Jungle Out There!

Networking tips from Debbie Miles of the Athena Network It’s A Jungle Out There!

When you start a small business, people will ask you what kind of networking you’re doing.

For a newbie, there can be a lot of choice, as over the last 10 years networking groups have become more commonplace. No longer restricted to men or the golf course, networking has proved a valuable marketing tool and is now even more accessible to women.

With GDPR restricting other traditional marketing activities, it could be time to try this softer method of meeting potential clients and collaborators. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right one for you.

Key objective

Firstly, determine your key objective. Will the network broaden access to your target market? And how much time and money do you plan to invest in your networking activity?

There are many different variables when it comes to choosing a group and each of these will have significant influence on your ability and desire to attend meetings, their effectiveness and your commitment and enjoyment. So here are a few to consider:

Structure

Is the format structured or free form? Will you have the opportunity to speak to everyone in the room or just a few people in an open networking style. Check the format or the agenda so you’re prepared.

Venue

Is the ambience pleasant, the venue comfortable and is there food? Are the refreshments of good quality? Where is it located? Will the journey and parking add to the time ‘out of office’? Perhaps you can combine other activities like one to one meetings while you’re there, making it worthwhile.

Will the attendees be the right people you need to meet and appropriate for accessing your target audience? Always bear in mind though that it’s not just who’s in the room that counts, as everyone there has a wider network too.

Timings

When does the meeting take place? Some are over breakfast, some mid-morning, plus there are lunchtime events and evening ones. How does this fit with your work, family or leisure commitments? How long is the meeting and how much is seated versus open networking?

Cost

Is there a joining fee, an annual membership fee, a meeting fee? Are refreshments or food included in the price? Perhaps there are opportunities to network free of charge at related meetings?

Gender

Is the group mixed gender or solely for men or women? What is the proportion of men and women at the event and is that likely to affect your confidence? Visit and check whether the group feels collaborative, supportive or ‘sales focused’.

Ethos

What is your gut feeling? Ask to visit the group and see whether its values fit with yours. Do you feel a connection with the people there and that you would happily work with them?

Number of members

What is the typical size of the group? Would you feel more comfortable in a network where you have more time to get to know each person or where you are more anonymous and can ‘cruise’ the room?

What opportunities are there to network further afield? Is the network nationwide or just local?

Personal development

Check to see if there is any training included in the meetings and look out for opportunities to showcase your business expertise and develop your own presentation skills.

What extra support is on offer

Look at the professionals in the group and see who can help plug the gaps in your own knowledge. Also, what additional services does the network provide? For example, social media promotional opportunities or workshops?

How fluid is the membership?

Will you get the opportunity to make good connections or do the attendees change each month? Will there be new people visiting each meeting?

Variety of professions

Check out the professions of the attendees before you go to the meeting and consider what opportunities there will be for collaboration or referrals. Is the group diverse in its membership or are there multiple people from the same industry sector?

In summary, there are many variables to consider when deciding what network to attend. Visiting them will soon enable you to determine which is the best fit.

Your network should make you feel you’re part of a team, where there are synergies to be gained by your complementary skills and the support offered. Networking is about developing long-term relationships and a raving fan base. Read more like this

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