A few great networking events each month can lead to better business opportunities and new strategic partnerships, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes there are too many events to attend, making it difficult to tell which ones are worth the time and energy. Other times, networking events are so rare that you may wonder how anyone finds out about them in the first place. Fortunately, there is another way- you can always start your own networking group.
What is a Networking Group?
A networking group is comprised of several professional individuals who all share a common goal that they can achieve by tapping into a combined network. Examples of such goals can include expanding comprehensions of different industries or forming more business relationships.
Networking groups typically hold networking events every month or so to introduce their members to other individuals within the overall network.
The Benefits of Starting A Networking Group
You may ask- why should I start a networking group? Here are a few reasons:
Networking on your own may lead to a couple promising leads, but networking with a group of dozens, maybe even hundreds? That could open up countless doors for a business or one’s professional development. Joining or starting a group allows members to tap into each individual’s personal networks and ultimately, reach a wider audience.
Ever gone to a networking event by yourself? Some people pull it off with ease, but others struggle to introduce themselves to complete strangers. Networking through a group of familiar faces and connections can help boost confidence and social skills.
Diverse resource pool
More people means more resources in different areas. Your networking group may have marketers, lawyers, programmers, writers, and more, all willing to help your brand should you call on them. That could mean assistance in coding a whole website, writing the copy for a press release, or helping with taxes. Take advantage of your network’s capabilities.
It shouldn’t have to be all work and no play! While networking is great for business, it’s also one of the best ways to decompress, meet new people, and learn about different perspectives. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and build relationships with those around you!
How To Lead a Networking Group
Now you may be convinced to start your own networking group, where should you start?
Here are 5 tips to start a networking group:
- Define a goal
- Set member roles and benefits
- Find an ideal location
- Plan the first networking event
- Find a system to stay connected
Define a goal
“To network with other businesses” may sound obvious, but consider why you need to network. Here are a few possible reasons:
- To create a strategic partnership (such as a publishing company searching for a printing firm)
- To attract more customers and clients
- To find new talent and team members
- To find new job or internship opportunities
- To promote or raise awareness for a specific product, service or cause
- To meet and learn from other experts and enthusiasts within an industry
Each person may have one or several goals, but it’s important to set a priority. That way, the whole group can rally towards a common objective.
For example, it may be more beneficial for a networking group to only focus on attracting more customers, or to only focus on finding new talent.
Set member roles and benefits
Setting up the networking programs and events requires collaboration and coordination. Not everyone can contribute equally (some may have less free time than others), but everyone should do their part. That includes:
- Outreach – who will invite attendees, public speakers, and sponsors?
- Planning – who will prepare for and plan the events- from reserving the space to organizing the networking session activities?
- Promotion – who will create ads, flyers, social media updates for event promotions?
- Leadership – who will communicate major updates to the entire group, and ensure future networking opportunities?
Depending on the size of the networking group, some people may have to take on multiple roles.
You may also want to consider what benefits each member may be entitled to. That might equate to discounts, a set number of referrals each month, or just increased exposure. For some groups, this may also necessitate monthly or yearly dues.
Find an ideal location
Finding a good location or space is important not just for the actual networking events, but for the planning phases too. It helps make the event run more smoothly when you can be present in the physical space itself. Here are a few common places where networking events may be held:
- Restaurants and bars
- Hotel lobbies
- Coworking spaces
Coworking spaces are the best options for hosting a networking event because of the large spaces, luxurious environments, rich amenities, and robust business networks that already exist within the coworking building. Novel Coworking hosts hundreds of networking events each year.
Plan the first networking event
The real test comes in planning the initial event. As with any other event, there’s a lot to consider within the budget:
Food and drink – Will you provide snacks and refreshments? Will you get catering or purchase snacks from a nearby store? Events that have food and drink available tend to attract bigger audiences and lead to longer stays.
Guests – Which speakers or influencers will you invite to the event? How will you keep track of which guests show up?
Event program – What is the overall theme of the event? Will there be a main presentation, speed networking, or workshops?
Timing – When will the event start and end? How much time is allotted for each segment?
Find a system to stay connected
Decide on which tools your group with use to stay connected with one another. Ideally, you should use a tool for sending group messages, either through SMS, Slack, Facebook Messenger. You may also want to connect over social media, either on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.
Everybody has their own life to worry about. As beneficial as a networking group can be, members may wander off, forget to reply, or become too busy to participate. It’s vital to schedule a weekly or monthly meeting, and establish the tools for communication, so that you may all continue to stay in touch.
Creating Successful Networking Groups
Networking groups succeed when everyone can work in unison towards an objective that benefits everyone. Don’t expect it to be successful right at the start, or even after the first few networking events. Just like building any network, real relationships take time to build and nurture. Instead of focusing on the end goal, learn to appreciate the connections and moments you’ll make along the way.
Want to read some more on networking? Check out our entrepreneur’s guide to networking lunches.
Be sure to also read our blog on making the most of any networking event.
And stay up to date with Novel Coworking’s blog for more guides and resources for entrepreneurs.