As a small business owner, contacts are invaluable. Finding events that will expand your network can, however, be hard if you don’t know where to look, what to look for and what to avoid. We give you ten ways to find networking events you want to attend.
1. Check online networking sites. A number of websites help find or initiate networking events. Meetup, Eventbrite and others allow you to search in your area for events, find information or purchase tickets.
2. Use social media. Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn let members create events and generate invites. You can view the profiles of others planning to attend and keep contact after the event. You can also use social media to make contacts outside of network events.
3. Join a non-networking group. Networking doesn’t need a label. A group with a common interest can expand your network without the pressure of the title. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking all your networking must have a strict business theme.
4. Start a group. If you like to run, read books, eat pancakes, drink coffee or talk philosophy, start a group that does said activity on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. Especially if you work from home, having a regular group event will break up any monotony you’re facing.
5. Contact local organisations. Your local chamber or rotary club host regular meetings that provide a built in guest list of other members of your local business community for events. Membership may come with fees, but can help you meet other local business people.
6. Support a cause. If you like to volunteer your time, find a non-profit organisation that needs your help. These events present the opportunity to spend time with other like-minded individuals.
7. Host an event. Invite people into your business or open it to an organisation for their event. There is plenty of advice available on how to hold a great networking event.
8. Recognise events to avoid. Some networking events are better left unattended. A few tell-tale signs will let you know when to stay home. If they boast exclusivity or an agenda of icebreakers and activities, you might want to choose a different event. Another issue could be fees with no reward. And make sure you aren’t the problem.
9. Balance exclusive and inclusive. Avoid a party where no one attending has similar goals, but also avoid an event that leaves no opening for others to join. To grow your network, events have to welcome newcomers, lead to other events and allow new groups to form.
10. Follow up. If you’ve attended an event, follow up with those you spoke to. These contacts are the reason you attended will lead you to the next event.