Have you ever been to a networking group where you feel like you’re just making up the numbers? Where the focus is on filling the room with as many people as possible rather than the quality of the networking experience.
One of the key things I’ve learnt from running my WIBN groups, is that bums on seats don’t necessarily deliver effective networking results. Of course, you want to have a decent number of people in the room, but networking is about more than packing out a venue. You can be at a networking meeting which looks good on paper, but simply doesn’t ‘feel’ right for one reason or another. Or you can be in a busy group but struggle to get to know people. That’s why it’s so important to try a group out before you join, so you can see whether it’s the right fit for you.
Getting the balance right
The foundation for successful networking is building relationships. And it’s my job to create the right environment to make that happen. With a professional lock-out policy, there is always high demand for certain spaces, particularly accountants, solicitors, graphic designers, marketers and product-based businesses, so these usually fill up first. But when it comes to assessing who else we need around the table, it’s important to consider things like:
- Which professions are missing?
- Who else do we need to create powerful collaborations?
- What’s the group dynamic like? Do we need to add some more energy /personality/ professionalism/ experience?
- Is the balance right between introverts and extroverts? And is there space for all personalities to flourish?
- What expertise would be of most value to the group in terms of learning opportunities?
The beauty of having several groups means I can match visitors with the most appropriate one to suit their needs. It’s really worth putting in the extra effort to build groups carefully, because when you get the balance right, that’s when business really flows around the room and when long-term relationships are developed. It’s also why some people stay in my groups for many years – it’s a valued community which becomes an essential part of their business and self-development strategy.
The extra value of networking
Strong groups with complementary professions mean members support each other way beyond the monthly meetings. Whether it’s providing advice, expertise, encouragement or resources, there is a real desire to help each other out – so the value of the group extends much further than you might think.
So, when you are looking for networking opportunities, it’s important to ask questions about the make-up of the group and to find out who might be a good connection for you. Networking is a significant investment of time and money, so you want to give yourself the best chance to make it work for you. When you join a group, it can take time to build relationships, so don’t expect instant results. But focus on getting to know people and adding value to the group, and you’ll soon reap the benefits.