Networking groups are an effective way of developing and fostering professional relationships. They can be an excellent source of ongoing business opportunities, leads, and ideas, as well as a great way of keeping in touch with industry peers and staying up to date on the latest developments in your particular field.
Networking groups typically meet in person for regular meetings or events, although there are online networking platforms too. By attending these events, you’ll be able to interact with business professionals from diverse backgrounds, and make useful connections.
In order to get the best out of a networking group, there are some standard guidelines to bear in mind:
1. Have clear expectations.
Be sure to define your purpose for joining the group. Ask yourself what you're hoping to gain from attending: new contacts and ideas, new sales or marketing opportunities, or to get some tips and advice from industry professionals? Have a clear idea of the type of people you’re looking to meet and how they can be of benefit to you, so that you can focus your efforts on the right people.
2. Come prepared.
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When attending the networking event, make sure to come prepared. That means researching the event ahead of time and finding out who is attending. Have a few topics in mind that you can discuss with other attendees, and be ready to present them in a positive, engaging way. Have enough business cards and other materials to give out to people you meet.
3. Listen and observe.
Networking is about connecting with like-minded people, so take the time to listen and observe the conversations going on before you jump into the conversation. This will help you to better identify the people who may be of interest to you and those who aren’t. It will also allow you to identify relevant conversations that you can jump into.
4. Be open and communicative.
Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the group and make sure to be confident and engaging. Ask questions, and be open to new ideas and opportunities. Exchange contact details, but don’t be overly aggressive in your approach or come on too strong.
5. Follow up.
Networking is not a one-time event, it is an ongoing process. So make sure to follow up with the contacts you made at the event afterwards. Send an email or make a phone call reminding them of who you are and what you spoke about at the networking event. This will help to solidify the relationship with the people you met and give you the opportunity to continue the dialogue, discuss further business opportunities or just keep in touch.