This week I have been to 3 different types of business networking event and met lots of interesting people. I thought a brief overview of the different kinds of events might be useful for those of you thinking you should take the plunge (and you really should!)
The first event was the resurrection of the 1st Tuesday evenings of the local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses. Held at a country pub/hotel in a function room, there were about 30m business people there. The format was informal, with it left up to you to dive in and network over a drink and buffet. If you are new to networking, this could be pretty intimidating - a bit like Fresher's Week at university! Luckily the branch committee are aware of this and made a point of introducing people to others that they had something in common with.
I got talking to two lovely ladies - Melanie and Jane. As we are run businesses that complement each other, I hope we will be meeting again very soon. That's what networking is about, for me. Not sales, sales, sales, but the amazing alliances that can grow from informal conversations.
The second event was 4Networking Stevenage's breakfast. I am not an impartial judge of this one, as I am a member and help to run this group. I joined because of the energy and openness of the network members, as well as the lack of stuffy rules of the organisation as a whole. Whilst there is a meeting structure, it is designed to be flexible and not restrictive. I have found my membership to be inspiring, profitable, sociable and motivating. Not bad, really!
The final networking activity of the week was a coffee meeting of the St Albans branch of Women in Business Network. Unfortunately I only arrived for the last half hour (various small incidents delayed me) so I can't really give a full review. It was an informal session over coffee in a pub/hotel. The group were very friendly and I had a very interesting chat with Kasia. Again, I can see collaborations being good for us both.
If you run or promote a business, then you really should be networking. You'll find support, suppliers, alliances, allies, friendship, fun - and maybe even customers! But don't make find new customers your sole goal, or you'll lose out on everything else.
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