To network or not to network?

That is the question – it sometimes seems as though you could fill every breakfast lunch and evening with business networking events – from the formal sit-down meal style to the less structured gatherings, there is (if the publicity is to be believed) no shortage of opportunities to meet people, explore opportunities to collaborate and win valuable referrals.
And equally there is no shortage of advocates for each event who are very happpy to explain how attendance or membership has transformed their business. However, if you search around you’ll probably find quite a few people who found it didn’t work for them and they prefer a different networking event.
In my experience there aren’t ‘good networking events’ or ‘bad networking events’ they’re all just different. Different in terms of the numbers attending, the kinds of businesses they represent, and what they are looking for from a business networking event. Of course, you’re just the same – you, your business and your business situation are unique and therefore what makes a great meeting for someone else doesn’t mean it will necessarily be great for you.
And of course there’s also the cost to take into account – not the £10 breakfast or meeting fee, but the time you are going to invest in preparing for the meeting, attending the meeting and follow up. It’s not unreasonable to expect to devote 4 hours of time to a networking event. Even at a charge-out rate of £50 per hour, that’s a £200 investment in the meeting – how much sales revenue do you need to generate to cover that cost?
So how do you work out which is the meeting for you? Firstly, do your research – how many people attend, what kind of businesses are there and how is the meeting run? If it sounds like you have a good chance of meeting a reasonable number of potential customers or referrers then it’s probably worth a trial. If you are going to have the opportunity to speak for a minute or two, then what are you going to say; how many business cards will you need?
Before attending though, set some objectives – what would constitute a successful meeting? Orders would be great, but probably not realistic. Meeting some specific individuals or particular business types could be an objective, arranging a follow up meeting (or two) night be what you are looking for.
Now you know what is going to happen at the meeting and what you want from the meeting, all you have to do is make it happen. Keep your objectives in mind while you are in the meeting, don’t get trapped with one person, don’t only talk to people you already know and try to enjoy yourself. Do remember other attendees will probably want to meet you too, so no need to be embarassed by introducing yourself to others.
After the meeting, remember to record your experience – how did it compare to your expectations, and did you achieve your objectives? Finally, will you invest your time to attend again?
If you would like a simple way to plan and review business networking meetings, you might like to download our Business networking review form.
Successful networking,