Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Business Networking Articles The Networking Gurus

Business Networking Events: How to Know Where to Go

You've heard all the buzz about networking being one of the best ways to grow your business or advance your career and you're ready to give it a try. You know it’s through your relationships with other people that you will make the connections you need to be successful in your career or business.

But how do you find these places to network? What do you need to get ready before you go to a networking event? What's the best way to work the room once you're there? And when it's all over, what kind of follow up should you do?

Don't worry, help is here!

This month's networking tip focuses on how to find places to network. To find networking opportunities, it helps if first you know who you want to meet. Once you know that, it's easy to discover where to go. Start by creating a list of the type of people you want in your network. Ask yourself:
- Who do I want to build relationships with? Customers, clients, colleagues, competitors? People from a specific industry or profession? What interests do these people share? Where do they spend time?

Networking opportunities occur almost every day, practically anywhere and at anytime. You've got your business functions, chamber events, the golf course, association meetings, and leads groups. And that's just the beginning. What about your athletic club, your yoga class, the PTA, the chair lift or an airplane?

You can network at any of these places, and we recommend that you do, however, there are at least five types of groups where you can go to grow your network:
1. Business Networking Groups
2. Leads Groups
3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups
4. Community Service Groups
5. Special Interest Groups

1. Business Networking Groups - A wide variety of groups fall within this category, most of them meeting monthly. These groups are set up for the primary purpose of networking and usually include people from a mix of industries. They may meet at breakfast, lunch, or after work. Some groups have a structured format, while others have an unstructured mix and mingle format. Some require membership and allow guests; others are open to anyone and everyone. If you are shy, you may find that groups with a more structured format work better for you than the informal mixers and receptions.

2. Leads Groups - The primary purpose of a Leads Group is to exchange leads and contacts. These groups tend to meet weekly, usually at breakfast or lunch, and have a very structured format, which can be good if you're shy or new to networking. Leads groups require membership and are "exclusive," meaning that only one member in each category of business can join. Each group will have only one financial advisor, one coach, one massage therapist, one realtor, and so on. There are private Leads Groups and Leads Groups within most Chambers of Commerce.

3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups - These groups are organized around an industry or a profession. While networking happens at these events, their primary purpose is usually educational. These are a great place to meet colleagues or competitors. You could also attend the groups your prospects, clients, or referral partners belong to.

4. Community Service Groups - A large number of public and private organizations exist whose main purpose is providing service to others. There are charitable or fund raising groups, civic, community, political and religious groups, to name a few. These groups allow you to meet like-minded people and to contribute at the same time.

5. Special Interest Groups - These are the fun groups! Another way to meet people is to participate in activities of personal interest to you. Whatever your interest, there's probably a group you can join. You'll find book clubs, chess clubs, and hiking clubs. There are dance classes, yoga classes, volleyball leagues, and more.

Now that you know who you want to meet and what types of groups these people might attend, it's time for you to find some events to go to. Here are five ways for you to begin creating your own list of places to network:

1. The easiest way to find networking events is to ask people. Ask your friends and colleagues if they belong to any groups or attend any networking events and let them know you're interested in going with them.

2. Your local newspaper or business journal will often list business networking events, but more and more these papers are publishing this list online rather than in their printed paper.

3. The Internet is a good place to look for events. Typing “networking events [your city name]” into a search engine will pull up a variety of events.

4. You can also look in the Yellow Pages or directories of associations for the names of associations and professional organizations. Your local library will have copies of these directories.

5. If you live in the Denver area, one of the easiest ways to find a comprehensive listing of business networking events is to subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, The Networking Gurus News, a monthly listing of all major networking events in the Denver area. You can view it and subscribe online at http://thenetworkinggurus.com.

To decide which groups to attend, ask yourself some or all of the following questions:
- What kind of people attend?
- How often does the group meet?
- What is the usual structure of the meeting?
- Is there usually a speaker?
- How much time is allotted for actual networking?
- How many people typically attend?
- What is the cost of attending?
- What are the time, place and dates of upcoming meetings?

Once you have gone through this process, you will be set to find groups that are right for you and your networking needs. Enjoy, and happy networking. Be sure to read next month’s tip, which will tell you how to prepare for an event before you go.

This article, copyright Donna Feldman & Cindy Rold, The Networking Gurus. All rights reserved. The Networking Gurus web site is a comprehensive resource of business networking events, skills and information for busy business professionals. For free networking resources visit http://www.thenetworkinggurus.com.

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