If you’re in business, attending networking events is necessary. Especially if you are a business-to-business firm, there’s simply nothing quite as effective as meeting people in person.
But these events can make you feel as if you are wearing loud stripes and shouting ‘I’m prey’ in the midst of a pack of predators. Uncomfortable. Squirmy. Self-Conscious. About to be eaten.
Many attendees show up, business cards gripped in sweaty hands. Their canned, insincere elevator speeches and manic 30 second sales presentations are delivered in a rehearsed ‘radio personality’ tone. You consider bolting for the door. You spy crackers and coffee on a table in the corner– it’s dinnertime, and your brain is running on empty.
All you really want to do is share how your business can help others. Gain understanding into their challenges and brainstorm together to find solutions.
Most networking events simply don’t produce results. Why? There’s no relationship. It’s kind of like speed dating – everyone feels they need to list their best attributes right up front to make a good impression, and in doing so manage to look desperate and predatory.
Finding the right business networking events takes practice and courage. They are very much like books – for every 5 or 6 you read, only one stands out as exceptional. The rest are forgettable.
I can’t tell you how many events the Wild Women have attended that made us want to run away and live in the woods like Henry David Thoreau during the Walden years. But every now and then, we find a group who speaks our language.
Last night was such an evening. We’ve made no secret of the fact that we love HubSpot. (see our blog about automated marketing What’s Wrong With Automated Marketing? Their ‘Inbound Marketing’ premise is nothing short of brilliant. (see Hubspot website) They give away far better information for free than others charge a premium for.
We attended a HubSpot User Group meeting. The first thing we were told is that we weren’t going to hear a sales pitch. I felt warm and fuzzy. The next thing they did was give us a book, the wonderful ‘Inbound Marketing’ by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. I nearly swooned in my chair. Anyone who knows me understands that I LOVE books. The soft feeling of the pages, the aroma of new paper and ink, the promise of learning something original and exciting. Just like that, I was smitten.
Suddenly, the Zebras were grazing in their own herd. We are a flagship group, planning to meet once a month to share, brainstorm, learn from each other and develop real business relationships. A sincere group of business people for whom client service and exemplary work product are paramount.
How do you find the best networking groups for your business? There’s no substitute for hard work, but here are a few tips to help:
- Know if you are a zebra or a coyote. Do a little research on Google about the group, their founders and attendee reviews. Are they all trying to sell you something?
- Decide what you want from a networking group. You may want to find one you can rely on for learning; another with members with whom you can exchange services.
- Consider community service groups. These attract people with similar interests – often those who view their connection to the world by what they can contribute.
- Professional organizations can be a great source of referrals. If you are a probate attorney, belonging to a bar association may produce referrals from others in complementary practices, such as business planning.
- Beware of groups who limit the membership to only one person in each profession and expect you to refer only to those members. You need to be able to refer to the very best – after all, your reputation is on the line. Blindly agreeing to refer to members of a group limits you to the vetting process of the organizer – which likely is not in your best interest.
- Just go. Get out there and try some groups. Not all will be a good fit. So what? Move on to the next one. Eventually you’ll find that herd of Zebras.