At meetings of the Business Before Breakfast of the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, we always throw out a “Challenge Question”. The Networking Calendar for September and October was handed out and it was 2 full pages of events comprising of the events held by the five local Chambers of Commerce as well as several other events. It raised the obvious question….
“HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH GROUPS AND WHICH EVENTS TO ATTEND?”
- Large vs Small– Some attendees make their decision based where they could meet the most number of new people while others preferred smaller groups where they weren’t so overwhelmed and they could form deeper relationships with those in attendance. If bigger groups are your preference remember that referrals do not come from a onetime meeting. Decide who and how many people you want to meet and make arrangements with them for an additional meeting away from the crowd. In either case try to work the room as you never know who someone might know. These decisions are based on CONNECTIONS.
- Business Groups vs.. Interest Groups– If you play on a softball team or in a golf league, if you volunteer at your Church or belong to the Lions Club….these are all networking opportunities. People get to know your CHARACTER through sports or volunteer activities. These people make their decisions based on who and what they enjoy. Make sure you present yourself well and take a Leadership role. In both groups it is about VISABILITY and SERVICE.
- Social vs. Structured Groups– Some just like to unwind with likeminded business acquaintances and others wanted to learn something from a meeting. At the monthly Chamber Gatherings you can deepen existing friendships and find new resources or potential referral partners. In the structured groups such as BNI, or the Lunch and Learn Series, the attendees sharpen their skills to improve their businesses. The more structured groups also tend to give more visibility to those in the room as there are usually opportunities to share ideas or to introduce yourself to the entire group. The keys here are VISABILITY and EDUCATION.
- Hit Multiple Groups vs Concentrate on a Few– A few members indicated that they rotate events between the multiple chambers to meet more people. Others found it easier to schedule a few on a repeating basis. Consistence of event schedules is important. Here it is about CONVENEINCE.
- Time of Day– Peoples priorities determined the time of day that worked best for them. Juggling work, family and personal obligations made some times of the day better for some and impossible for others. Again CONVENIENCE was key.
- Makeup of the Group– There was a lot of discussion around this topic. Being around positive, passionate people who had a large sphere of influence was critical. Either groups of professionals with similar businesses or those who are their target market the chemistry of the group was one of the major factors driving decisions.
Whatever your preference and whatever you have found effective and convenient for you, there is one overriding theme. Networking outside of the business is crucial to business development and emotional happiness. You need to know WHY you network and then come up with a plan and goals associated with these activities. Interestingly NO ONE mentioned venue or price. It was all about the people and perceived gain. Do you network to get leads, ideas, learn a skill, find resources, develop friendships, find emotional support, or have fun? A couple of parting thoughts…
You will rise to the level of those with who you associate.
No one succeeds in a vacuum.