3 networking events in 28 hours (part 3)

(Missed the previous posts? click part 1 or part 2 to read them)

The third networking event I attended this week – well actually I helped to organise it too – was the Kirklees fsb branch’s networking event on Tuesday evening titled #fsbnetworking.  I became a member of the committee at the last AGM and since agreed to take on the role of Secretary.  Historically the branch events have been mainly speaker focused with some informal networking, however the committee thought there should be more emphasis on networking, encouraging attendees to do business with each other.

After a month or two of planning and marketing, the big day arrived and we gathered at Canalside, off Leeds Road in Huddersfield at 6pm.   We had 15 people booked on and a handful more turned up on the door which we were quite pleased with.  The number of people that attend networking events is always a contentious one (and even more difficult to predict), naturally most people think events with lots of people is better, however I often find very busy events can be overwhelming and I get a better response and value for money when there are less people, as I can actually have an in-depth experience and make real connections with people, and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

As the event was at teatime, we had a cold buffet available for attendees when they arrived and following this our structured networking part of the meeting commenced.  The committee decided to use the structured networking format I use for my HD8 Network meetings, which is Speed Networking, as it was agreed that doing a 60 seconds in front of everyone is sometimes intimidating and can put people off, but we wanted to help people to introduce themselves.  Similar to Speed Dating (apparently) attendees are partnered off and take it in turn to introduce their business.  The first person has 2 minutes (although this can depend on the number of attendees and the time available), the bell rings, the other person has 2 minutes, the bell is rung again and one of the partners moves to the next table, continuing until the ‘mover’ completes a circuit, which enables everyone to speak to at least half the people in the room.  Most people that have done this at the HD8 Network really enjoy this format although there are a few that think it is not long enough, however these sessions are aimed at providing an introduction not a 1:1.  This should be encouraged to happen at a later point or during the informal networking afterwards.

We then had Lyndsey Whittaker, the West Yorkshire fsb Development Manager deliver a presentation on the new fsb brand, explaining why the change had been made and what the impact would be.  Having a speaker at networking events can provide an additional benefit for attendees and it is something we have decided to incorporate in our future networking events, whilst we don’t want it to consume the whole meeting.  Future topics will be Kirklees Business Hub, Auto-Enrolement and Marketing.  We are also planning a fun summer holiday themed event which we are all excited about, but it needs further planning before announcements can be made.

As you can see there are many different formats for networking events, some suit better than others.  Similarly they are at different times, different places and attract different candidates.  There are also varying catering offerings and costs.  My recommendation is to try them all, or at least those that have been recommended to you and you think could be of benefit.  Some seem like a jolly in the pub and others a ceremonial boardroom experience. There are those that have a strong influence on making new connections, those that focus on referrals and lead generations and others that build on relationships.  Some offer business support, enabling you to build and grow your business, as well as other educational angles.  There are also female only events and also ones that are child friendly (Bizmums).

However you don’t need to ‘go’ networking to network and generate business referrals, the simplest version of this is the golf club, the local pub or community group, where relationships are made and recommendations occur organically.

Most importantly though it is about people and the connections they make.

There is a lot more that I could discuss and explain about networking but I will have to leave that for future blogs.

If you don’t already network, I would whole heartedly recommend that you try it out, sampling a few different formats, times and organisations that run them before you make your mind up whether it is for you or not.  You never know what you will come away with! It’s not always what you expect.  When I first started I found it a useful way of conducting market research, finding out what services people wanted, expected and were already providing, but most importantly it gave me the opportunity to verbalise and analyse my offering.

If you do network, which ones would you recommend?

Clearly I have only discussed the ones I have attended this week (okay, okay I might have also mentioned the HD8 Network Meet Up as well – 3rd Tuesday of the Month between 4.30 – 7pm at the 315 Bar and Restaurant www.HD8network.eventbrite.co.uk – but it is my baby, I’m allowed), however there are many others that I regularly attend including Perfect People, Retro Friday and Coffee and Cake, as well as the Chamber of Commerce MY Networking and Connections Count.

Maybe we’ll see each other at an event in the near future.

In the meantime, thank you for reading, you can also catch up with me on social media Twitter.com/SayersSolutionsFacebook.com/SayersSolutionsPage and Linkedin/MerewynSayers