We all know and understand the importance of networking for business (and if you don’t, get on it!) but there’s so much out there that it can be difficult to determine which form of networking represents the best use of our precious time.
As well as a variety of networking groups and clubs to potentially join, there are also many larger scale networking events taking place all the time. So, what’s the difference and how do you get the best out of both?
Networking events are usually held on a larger scale and you generally don’t have to be a member to join. They might be organised by local councils, local enterprise partnerships, chambers of commerce or other businesses organisations.
They are often semi-regular, annual or one-off and generally involve a full day’s worth of activities including exhibitors, speakers, seminars and workshops.
Some of the benefits of this type of event include:
- Typically either free or low cost
- Do not involve any level of commitment other than attending on the day
- If you select the right ones, expos and large networking events generally bring everything that is relevant to your business under one roof
- Get valuable information and advice free of charge through seminars and workshops
- Discover funding opportunities and sources of support that you may not have been aware of
To make the most of this sort of event, you really just need to get stuck right in. Speak to exhibitors, collect business cards, attend the lunch, introduce yourself to people. It is possible to just peruse the stands and pick up lots of leaflets, but the chances are they will just pile up on a desk at home. Speaking to people is what really counts at these events. Look at the agenda and pick a couple of workshops or seminars to attend too, as you might get some valuable information for your business. You might also find it easier to make connections at the smaller sessions.
Most areas have a variety of networking groups, you just need to choose which is right for you.
They come in a range of formats, but usually involve a group of business people meeting on a regular basis. There may be an annual or monthly fee, or you might just pay to attend as and when you can. The main difference to a large networking event is that you really do need to commit your time to attending regularly and building relationships.
Some of the benefits of networking groups include:
- Build and create a community of like-minded business people in your area
- Get advice, leads and new opportunities from other local business owners
- Your fellow members will become your extended sales team, and vice versa
- Benefit from free advice and tips as most groups generally have a speaker slot
- Trade services with fellow members
- Help contribute towards the growth of a thriving local economy
How much you get out of networking groups tends to be proportionate to what you put in. ‘Good’ networkers can make it work very well for them. It all starts with simply turning up and talking to people. Sharing useful networking tips is a regular feature of FaB Networking meetings, which results in an effective community of people, working well together for the mutual benefit of all.
What’s the verdict?
So, which is best, networking events or networking groups? Our answer is both! They can both be very useful for different reasons. The trick is to choose carefully. Don’t go to everything, find events that you feel will be relevant and find the networking group that is a good fit for you and the time you have available. Most groups will let you go along as a visitor, so you can see what it’s all about before committing to anything.
Contact FaB Networking if you’d like to visit one of our networking groups in Tamworth, Nuneaton, Hinckley or Rugby. We look forward to meeting you!