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Five Kinds of In-Person Business Networking

There are so many different ways to participate in business networking.  Some methods of networking are more effective for certain types of people and businesses than others.  Below is a list of a few different types of business networking available in person. Our events tend to be a combination of one or more of these examples. Our networking meetings are usually quite casual, informal and everyone is welcome to attend.  Which types of events do you prefer based on your personality and business’ needs? Leave your comments below!

1.  Speed Networking

Speed Networking is what you would imagine it sounds like.  It’s speed dating for business.  Typically, you get about 1 minute to give your elevator pitch and then another minute to listen to the person in front of you.  Then the bell rings and you move to the seat next to you.  There are a few of these types of networking held throughout York Region and there are some people that love them and some that hate them.  I’m somewhere in the middle.

I think Speed Networking can be useful if it’s for a very targeted purpose or industry.  There is a group I’ve heard of (and unfortunately I don’t recall their name), that holds speed networking events to help people within the technology industry find business partners or potential suppliers.  The idea is that you are bringing together people with a specific need together.  For example, I may have a great idea for a new product, but need to find a mechanical engineer that would be interested in partnering with me.  In this case, 1 minute is all that you need.

Speed Networking can be useful for looking for specific types of partners or organizations you may want to work with, but is usually less beneficial for finding potential clients directly.

2. Chamber of Commerce Events

Every Chamber of Commerce has their own events as well.  They vary from social events to learning events.  Chamber events tend to have high attendance numbers since they already have such a large membership base.  Some drawbacks with such large events is that it can be intimidating for members that are shy to participate in an open networking format.  The benefit is that if you go often enough, you will start to see familiar faces and that may help you feel more comfortable.  Events are usually free for members, or they get a discounted rate.  Membership can sometimes be a bit outside the budget for a small business owner that is trying to market themselves and grow to the next level, but is usually beneficial to the more established and stable businesses.

3. Organized Networking Groups

Organized networking groups like BNI, Le Tip and BCX are also very popular. These groups tend to have very structured and formal processes in place for networking and referrals.  The all operate slightly differently, but some examples of the features of these types of groups (and I’m generalizing) are:

  • you may be expected to produce a certain number of refferals each month
  • they may only allow one person per ‘category’ – exclusivity
  • meeting are predictable (Usually on the same day and time each week or month)
  • In some cases the same people always attend. (Benefit if you want to build relationships, drawback if you prefer to meet more people)
  • There maybe high costs to join (although some have proven systems that show if you commit to their system you will see greater benefits).

4. Forums and Learning Events

Networking can happen anywhere.  Most business organizations hold some sort of learning event (we will be holding several starting this fall) where business owners and professionals can not only learn something to help them run or grow their business, but they can also meet other business owners that share a similar interest.  This is a great way to network as you usually have more time to chat and get to know other small business owners that are attending..

5. Tradeshows

Tradeshows are another opportunity to network your business.  The decision you need to make is whether you want to be behind a booth or in front of it.  Depending on your business and budgetary constraints, you may not be able to afford buying a booth, so that decision may be simple.  However, if you’re not sure which would be best for you, here are a few things to consider.

Booth:

  • Useful if you have something people really want, and want to learn more about.
  • Easier to have discussions with interested people about your products or services
  • A visible presence may help to reinforce your brand recognition
  • You may be listed on the event’s website or program and/or have other advertising opportunities available to you.

Attendee:

  • You can choose who you want to speak to at the event and avoid the booths that don’t interest you.
  • It’s a bit more difficult to gain brand recognition on a one-on-one basis.
  • You have more opportunities to connect with the rest of the attendees.
  • You can leave early if you find the event isn’t suited to your needs (It’s a bit more difficult to pack up a booth three hours early.)

Happy Networking!

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