Where are the best places to spend your time business networking? I hear this question all the time from colleagues and clients. In my last blog we looked at how to make your business networking more effective . Now we will address the question, where are the best places to business network? First and foremost is the concept of not spreading yourself so thin that you are literally jumping from one business networking event to the other without accomplishing anything but exhaustion and frustration. Next we want to distinguish between business networking organizations and business referral organizations.
A business networking organization might be:
- An association based on profession
- A Chamber of Commerce
- A group like the Social Register of Las Vegas
- Better Business Bureau events
- Any business networking group where you do not have one person per profession
A business referral organization might be:
- Business Networking International (BNI)
- Trustegrity – in the Southwest
- Any referral group that is focused on membership and one person per specific profession
Both business referral organizations and networking organizations can be extremely valuable to grow your business. As a member of BNI for several years both in Connecticut and Las Vegas, I can tell you firsthand that business referral organizations work if you put in the effort to give back and help others in your chapter. LeTip is pretty much the same. Both of these meet weekly and attendance is extremely important. Trustegrity meets monthly but is also designed to foster relationships and referrals among the members while not being as strict about the “one person per profession” as LeTip and BNI. In Las Vegas there are several other business referral organizations that are one person per profession, have a structure and meet weekly or bi-weekly. Any of these type of referral organizations requires a firm commitment on your part to help others grow their business, spend extra time getting to know people in your group and showing up to almost all the meetings.
The less structured business networking organizations or groups can also have a great impact on your business but here I recommend focusing on a few that you feel comfortable with and that you will attend on a fairly regular basis. Professional associations give you a chance to mix and mingle with your peers and this can often lead to an exchange of referrals as you learn that others may not do exactly what you do and vice versa. These are also great for expanding your knowledge and learning what others are doing to successfully grow their business.
Chambers of Commerce are great if you truly get involved. Chambers of Commerce can be very different sizes from many thousands to a few hundred members. Pick a Chamber of Commerce in the area where your business is located and get involved in doing committee work and attending as many functions as you can. Make yourself a known entity and do what you can to help others with introductions and referrals. Be someone that others know and trust.
Other groups like the Social Register of Las Vegas are wonderful organizations to meet and greet in social settings like Business After Hours and offer workshops where you can network and improve your skills in a variety of areas. Corporate sponsorships in these organizations can also give you and your business more exposure. Remember, the key is to be seen by going to events, talking to people and helping others with their business needs.
Now let’s talk about another area that I recently learned about when I spoke at the University of Phoenix last month on LinkedIn Profile Optimization. How about attending City Council Meetings and speaking out on subjects that matter to you and your community? This can put you front and center with the powers that be in your community. These are also broadcast on local cable stations and played over and over. Give it a try.
Last but certainly not least are non-profit fundraisers and service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc. While these are based on the idea of service to others, there is no doubt that they are a great place to build relationships both personal and business. Attending non-profit fundraisers for causes that matter to you is another way to be seen and get to know others that share the same passion for that particular cause. Of course, if you are active in any religious organization that can be another place to meet and greet with other professionals as you are getting to know people whom you already have something in common with. That is a key element to any service organization – like-minded people.
Look for networking and referral organizations, associations, chambers and service organizations in your area. Try out a few and see what resonates with you. Once you find what you are comfortable with and it’s okay to push yourself out of your comfort zone now and then, remember to use the tips we went over last time to really make your business networking time effective. Happy Networking!