I started Mountain Top Perspectives in April 2020 – just at the start of lockdown. Hence, I’ve had to embrace virtual networking whether I liked it or not. Previously, my experience of face-to-face networking events had been hit and miss. I’m a shy extrovert and entering a room full of people I don’t know has never appealed to me. I always ended up sideling up to other ‘wallflowers’ who seemed relieved that they too were no longer alone. Alternatively, I’d be cornered by someone intent on selling their product or services to me, not interested in getting to know me or my business. I’m sure I’ve also bored far too many people as well. Rarely were these meetings good use of my time, once I took into account the travelling time and opportunity cost and it took several meetings before I felt comfortable that I would know someone well enough to join in a conversation. So I entered the world of online networking with some trepidation…
And loved it!!
Most groups I‘ve joined are very supportive and encouraging, helping those of us who initially struggled with our stumbling 40-second introductions. The focus of these on-line groups is more about getting to know others’ business rather than hard sales. One even has an accountability element so we share what we achieved in the previous week and our objectives for the week ahead. What I love is that everyone has a chance to speak, which helps the less confident or quieter attendees to get a word in edgeways. So, in just one meeting, I could make around 20 contacts – virtually impossible in a face to face environment. It’s less expensive too. Many online networking groups have been free during lockdown or just charge a minimal fee and, of course, there are no additional payments for parking or buying a meal. Also, it’s very time efficient – I couldn’t have attended so many groups if I had to travel to them as well. Additionally, some groups have attracted international members, which adds another dimension. I’ve even joined a business book club – in essence, a more intense form of networking group as we share our learning. These groups become community – we’ve shared Christmas parties, supported charities and celebrated success. Sadly, when one group member died suddenly, the group gathered to reminisce and support each other. There was a real sense of support and loss – yet few of us had ever met the person face to face.
So, if you’ve been motivated to join a networking group these are my tips for getting the most out of networking groups:
- Choose groups that are either helpful to you – the book club and the accountability groups are examples of this for me – or include connections to your target market.
- Make sure you can regularly attend these groups – you need to show commitment.
- Turn up on time – or let the organisers know you’ll be late.
- Be prepared to give, not to take. The latter comes later when you’re established in the group.
- Practice your 40-second introduction to your business (some allow one minute – but I’ve found it’s easier to add words than take some out). Try not to rely on reading it out – people can tell! Speak from the heart.
- Use the chat function to provide contact details
- Link up with other attendees on social media as a minimum
- Keep in touch with others during the week – like their posts, show an interest in their business, offer support.
- Offer to give a talk – and always have one up your sleeve in case a presenter doesn’t turn up.
- And finally, enjoy yourself!