01 Feb Networking the next step!
You may have read about my first steps into Networking in my blog “Launching into Networking with a bang!” Here I describe my first experiences of networking via Twitter.
Since then a lot has changed…
I have begun face-to-face networking and over the last few months, I have visited a variety of groups to see where I fit best. Networking is a must to promote your services but to also meet others who provide products and services you are likely to need too.
I have visited small groups, large groups, groups that operate a lock-in and those who don’t. Early breakfast meeting and even earlier breakfast groups! Women only and mixed groups.
What I have found is that it is daunting and nerve-wracking standing in front of a large room full of people, but everyone is in the same position. Everyone in the room has been a beginner and has tips to share. Once you’ve been to a few meetings it soon becomes easier.
The standard structure of most networking sessions is to mingle when you arrive. If it’s a breakfast meeting, then you normally eat and then you may have 45 or 60 seconds to sell yourself, this is known as an elevator pitch. After this, a speaker or group member will provide an in-depth presentation on an aspect of their business or a skill that could help others develop.
Some groups offer 1-1’s or a section where you may ask advice from the others in the room. Usually, there is a section where other group members can pass on referrals or acknowledge those who have helped them in some way, which is a really positive way to end a session.
I have been warmly welcomed everywhere I have been which has really helped. To learn more about networking, I attended a workshop called “Making the most out of Networking” run by Paul Green from NN CoNNect and Jacky Sherman from Assentiv. I found this session invaluable and so glad I attended whilst I was new to networking. The seminar made me focus my pitch, not to try and reach everyone but to be specific on how I can help and who my ideal client would be when asking for specific referrals.
So which groups did I choose to join?
After attending several groups, I have decided to join The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), NN CoNNect and Rushden Town Partnership (RTP) as my main networking groups. They all have something slightly different to offer me and I have already met people who would like to work with me.
I chose The FSB as it represents not only my own business but small businesses and sole traders who are my idealclients. They also offer an enormous range of resources to support small businesses from free legal support to free business banking! The FSB has thousands of members from all over the UK and I am looking forward to becoming more involved with them in 2017.
I joined NN CoNNect as it offers a selection of meetings in my local county, Northamptonshire. NN CoNNect doesn’t operate a lock-out which promotes healthy competition and choice. Paul and the other members are welcoming which creates a friendly atmosphere to do business in. Becoming a member has many benefits and one of these is to attend free training to develop your business skills.
Finally, with another warm welcome, I chose Rushden Town Partnership (RTP) as it operates in my immediate vicinity. This group is just for businesses based in Rushden and serves the public by providing them with a directory of services, shops and businesses which they may never know existed. The RTP is a non-political group formed in 2012 with the express aim of engaging with business and the local community to ensure Rushden continues to be a great place to live and visit.