With the many restrictions, due to COVID-19, across the country, business networking has had to change.
Back in the day when I started my networking journey I physically went to small, local breakfast meetings. As my experience and confidence grew, I tried networking groups that had multiple meeting points across the country. Here I found the format very similar to the more localised groups but, in some cases, the companies were outside my scope. For instance, the IOD (Institute of Directors) is a great group of business people but bigger than my then very small telecoms and IT business could expect to do business with. Likewise, a networking group that specialises in the smaller, arts, crafts, and home based companies may also not be suitable for some businesses and services.
It is extremely important to know your demographics when doing business networking. A great pitch is not enough if you cannot deliver the goods.
In todays market there are still a few socially distanced groups meeting to have breakfast together, but on the whole most groups have gone onto internet platforms like Zoom, sadly without food ☹
So, what do you need to know about attending business networking groups?
Firstly, research the groups available to get one that’s a good fit with your chosen market and yourself (some groups will allow you one or two tasters). So for me, after attending a few other Zoom networking meetings (other virtual platforms are available), I found my home at the business networking group called Twilight https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/. One of the advantages of this group is the option to turn up 15 minutes early and meet with two other businesses in a small group room. This also helps in getting known and knowing others and judging how inclusive and friendly the networking group might be.
Secondly, check how much it will cost you to join your preferred networking group. Some groups charge a membership fee plus a meeting fee, whilst others only charge you for the meetings you attend, as with Twilight. To join this week’s meeting, click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/twilight-networking-zoom-meeting-thursday-22nd-oct-2020-from-545pm-tickets-108749354246
Thirdly, prepare your pitch. Sixty seconds is the normal amount of time allowed. The format could be similar to this; your name, the name of your company, and what your company provides. If there’s a specific type of client you’re looking for this would be a good time to ask. Always be polite, try to avoid acronyms as most people don’t know what they mean, and most importantly avoid the words; just, should and umm! It is also helpful if you can speak without reading from a script. Oh! And smile 😊 Many groups also have a 10 minute slot for one business, at each meeting, to give a longer explanation of what the company does. This can usually be done with or without PowerPoint slides. You will need to let the group leader know that you would like to do one of these slots as there may be a waiting list.
Next think about the 1-2-1s you would like to have. This is the most important part of business networking. Look for companies that you feel you have a mutual two way link with. It is not just about selling your products, it is also about helping others sell theirs. It might not be a product you require but it may be a product one of your clients might benefit from. Though I am relatively new to Twilight, I have already had a couple of 1-2-1 meetings, and have four more booked into my diary. Zoom also has a chat function which Twilight posts into their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/twilightnetworking making it easy to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.
And finally, support your group and their leaders. Invite other businesses along, promote using social media platforms and blogs, and if there are any problems deal with them privately with the relevant people, never, ever in public, as this will reflect badly on you and your company.
It would be great to see you at one of the Twilight meetings I attend fortnightly http://www.twilightnetworking.co.uk/ (the next meeting is on Thursday 22nd October at 5:45 PM) It is easy to book on (see Eventbrite link above). It only costs £5 per meeting, with no additional fees. The group is light and friendly but serious about doing business.