5 Questions to ask yourself before choosing a networking group
Busy schedules force us to pick and choose how we spend our limited free time so, it’s important to network strategically. Creating network “buckets” is a perfect place to start. Most contacts can be put into one of two buckets… Personal and professional.
There are a variety of ways to increase both your personal and professional networks. Personal networks form organically with time. Professional networks can be built by joining professional organizations, attending networking groups and trade shows. All of which have clear objectives that play a role in a successful networking strategy.
Before joining any of these organizations or events, there are questions you should ask yourself to determine if the event is worth the time. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure every networking event you attend will yield maximum results:
Can I add value to add to this group?
Rather than only thinking “what can I get out of attending this group,” expand your intent to include “what can I offer others in the group.” When you are in the mindset of helping others, connections will happen naturally.
Will I stand out as a member of this group?
If you are the same as everyone in your networking group then it’s more difficult stand out. Target groups that don’t have members exactly like you, that way you are unique and have something to offer that no one else in the group does. There are exceptions to this rule. If your business is primarily referral-based, then a group of professionals in your industry can be a great way to generate referrals and referral partners.
What engagement opportunities does this group provide?
Professional organizations and networking groups will likely offer unique leadership and volunteer opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else. Finding an opportunity that matches your strengths will produce greater exposure amongst the group, as well as highlight your skills. These opportunities may give members experience in areas not available at work. If you don’t see an opportunity you can always create one, maybe there is a subcommittee that you would be the perfect person to start.
What kind of outward assistance do I need to do my job?
Networking can be a great way to develop strategic partnerships with professionals who offer services essential to doing your job. For example, if you are a marketing consultant, a graphic designers networking group would be a great place to form strategic alliances.
Do I have a clear follow up strategy?
Most people carry a stack of business cards with them to events. When you give out business cards, you are giving up the power to follow up on your terms. A more successful strategy is to leave the event with a stack of business cards that you collected from others, so you have the power to follow up on your own terms. On the back of each card you collect, write down something to help you remember what you discussed and something you remember about them. Follow-up with a LinkedIn connection and perhaps send them a useful article you find that relates to something the two of you discussed.
For many professionals, networking keeps their business running. With such busy schedules, there is no room for networking haphazardly. Scrutinize every event or group you are considering and go in with a clear strategy. Whether it be to help others or to get in front of customers, knowing your objective will ensure you aren’t wasting your precious time.