From someone who has created a few networking groups to someone who would like to start a networking/referral group. What are some tips? I've heard that having a code of conduct is crucial so people know how to act within the group. Anything else beyond just rules?
Ready, set, network...
In today's business world, it's hard to imagine a marketing plan that doesn't include networking.
Networking is a passion of mine. I am the organizer of 3 local networking groups. I started one group called the Long IslandEntrepreneurs Meetup. Within a year we have taken over two other networking groups, StartUp Long Island and Long Island Business Networking. Between the three groups we now have about 400 members. I absolutely love the monthly meetings. The atmosphere is always friendly and amicable. We have lots of new faces attending each month. There is such a variety of professions and businesses available in our group and there is ALWAYS the possibility of a connection between two or more members.
It is a shame that lots of people think that attending just once, will be enough to get their name and their business name out there. Each month new people attend and besides that... the more we see you, the more we remember you ;-)
Networking means getting to know people and getting your name and business name out there. But it also means that you will make an effort to remember the people you met and refer them to others when the opportunity arises. Those who give will receive. When you sow, you will be able to harvest later on. And the more seeds you plant, the more you will harvest.
As I told you networking is a passion of mine. Since about 2 years I have 3 local networking groups. And I love it. But networking is something you need to learn. Like everything in life. There are different ways of networking. There are many options to attend local meetings. Or you can choose to network online. Both require etiquette and skills.
I have been networking online for about 3 years now. I must admit that when I first started, I really spend too much time answering posts on boards, posting comments on guestbooks and trying to help people connect.
I had to limit my time.
Since I am very organized, I have made a schedule for myself. And I keep myself to it, visiting the networking pages only on the days and hours that are reserved for online networking. There are many networking sites out there. It is hard to make a choice, but once you check them out, you will see which one fits your needs. It happens to me often that I cancel out an site after a few month just because it is not the site I feel comfortable with. Or I find the site is too much geared towards plain advertising.
Message boards and networking sites are different. A site that is strictly a message board is different from a networking site, because it does not offer you a home page on which you can fill out your own profile. It is only used for exchanging messages. You will however have the chance to introduce yourself in the ‘Introductions’ section. I prefer networking sites. On these sites you will have a profile page. This page can usually be tweaked so it reflects you in colors, font, etc. The advantage is that you have a permanent ‘advertisement’ for yourself and your business.
On networking sites I often get a message from people who are interested in networking with me and I in most cases I have no idea who they are. I don’t understand how anyone could believe that I would want to respond with a simple click on the ‘yes’ button to someone who hasn’t even taken the time to write me a little note. What do you do in this situation situation?
Is online Networking any different than face-to-face networking? In my opinion one difference in the face-to-face kind is that you immediately know if you ‘click’ with someone. As opposed to online networking, where (most of the time) you do not get the ‘feel’ of the person you are talking to right away. Online networking takes times and requires etiquette. Just as you would be polite meeting someone for the first time face-to-face.
Local networking meetings and online networking sites are not just about doing business. No one likes to have a sales pitch in the first few minutes of meeting you. They're about making connections and building relationships. The first step in making a networking connection is to simply introduce yourself. Online that means post an introduction to the group and then start sending comments to the boards or threads, give your opinion on comments others have written and threads other people have posted and get comfortable with the group. Let them get comfortable with you too. Then start talking to the ones you feel you have a connection with or you could network with by email or PM.
A good way to find out if you have anything in common is to visit their homepage and read their entire page. Follow their links. Read their guest book entries and look at the list of networks they are affiliated with. This way you can find out if they might be the person you would enjoy having as a friend or business connection.
Then send them an email or private message. Connect with them. Make a new friend. That way, when you do ask them to network with you, they will be more likely to respond ‘yes’.
Online or face-to-face networking, there is a right way and a wrong way. Take your smile with you when you go and be open to sharing your thoughts and ideas. Networking is relationship building and making friends.
In today's business world, it's hard to imagine a marketing plan that doesn't include networking. There are many wonderful groups out there and I strongly suggest you find the right one for you. If you have any questions in regard to our networking group or have one of your own that you'd like to make us aware of, don't hesitate to contact me.
Good luck and happy networking.
“It's not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you.” Zig Ziglar
Learn more about the author, Yvonne Bisk.
Comment on this article
Posted by Phil Greely, Seattle, Washington |
Sep 28, 2008
Posted by Yvonne Bisk, Levittown, New York |
Oct 03, 2008
From the moment I started my group I made clear what the agenda for the meeting was. I give everyone the opportunity to give a 30-60 second speech about who they are, what they do and what kind of referrals they are looking for.
Everyone is greeted by me personally upon arrival and I explain that they will have the chance to address the whole group. By doing so I try to avoid the scenario in which agressive sales people 'attack' each and everyone even before the meeting starts. Mingling is OK, even encouraged. Furthermore i keep it interesting for return visiters by holding raffles, giving the option to sign in for EBooks and each month a member gets the opportunity to hold a workshop for about 15-20 minutes.
On the few times we had low attendance, I livened up the meeting by starting a discussion with a business question (marketing, finances, anything interesting for the whole group).
Most important is personal contact with your members. Greet them by email or by phone when they sign up. Thank everyone who attended afterwards by email. Encourage members to participate in bringing raffle gifts, which will give them exposure on the website for a month.
I also give the members information whenever i know of fairs, other networking events, intersting articles of workshops. Since my meetings are only once a month, I try to keep in touch at least twice a week by email.
I have started my group through Meetup.com, which was a big help, because I ahd never done anything like this before.
I hope this helps a bit. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask ;-)