How to Select the Right Networking Group for You
We’ve all been there before.
You receive an email, a personal invitation or a direct mail piece inviting you to a networking group. Some might be free or at least reasonably priced … they may take place at a fancy restaurant … or you may be coerced into attending because an industry colleague says “this will be perfect for you!”
So you show up. You drop your business card into a fishbowl, seek out your host or a colleague and you start working the room.
Ten minutes later, you get invited to sit and the moderator goes around the room and asks everybody – except for the featured speaker, of course – for their 60-second elevator speech. You listen to the others, all the while thinking “what am I going to say?” Finally you deliver your summary and then you can concentrate on the rest.
Twenty minutes later – after the seemingly repetitious litany of capsulized drones from the obligatory realtors, insurance brokers, high-end auto repair facilities, community bankers, financial managers and printers, you invariably ask yourself the following questions:
“What on earth am I doing here?”
"Am I right?"
"Haven’t we all been there before?"
Given the seemingly endless plethora of Chamber events, Tip Clubs and BNIs, how do you know which events are right for you? Granted, these networking functions must work for some people, after all, they keep growing, but from first-hand experience, I can tell you that they rarely work for the mar-com industry.
Unless you find the right one … and six months ago, that’s exactly what I discovered.
While I can’t shamelessly promote the organization (although I will tell you it rhymes with the Spanish word for father, only with a “C” instead of a “P”), the key to successful a network group experience lies within both the leadership and the makeup of its membership. For me, I wanted to be associated with:
1. A group comprised of serious decision makers.
2. A group with a viable mix of entrepreneurs, solo practitioners and high-level executives of major corporations.
3. A group that’s well established throughout various facets of the Washington business community.
4. A group comprised of individuals that I did not previously know, and
5. A group of individuals who are NOT desperate for business.
And that’s exactly what I was fortunate enough to find.
While each of the aforementioned elements are important, it’s really bullet point #5 that’s the most critical. Personally, I liken business networking to the world of dating. With a few obvious differences, the similarities are striking. Invariably, it seems that when you’re in a relationship, additional the opportunities abound … when you’re not, you sometimes tend to push a little too hard. If you’re successful in business, if you can afford to be selective, well, you might choose to ignore a few of those less-than-entirely-desirable prospects in favor of what might lie around the corner.
Put a gathering of highly successful people in the same room, and that’s exactly what you get … people and companies who want to do business with one another … if the opportunities and the chemistry make sense.
So, how do you find such a group?
Oddly enough, it begins with your own network. You need to ask -- friends, colleagues, even industry competitors. And when you get those recommendations, do your homework. Find out who else is in the group? Do they aggressively push for leads and referrals? (If so, run for the hills!). Or is the purpose of this particular group all about building relationships and really and truly getting to know one another, with the understanding that somewhere, somehow and at some point down the road, those relationships just might translate into business.
For me, that’s the ideal type of networking group.