1. Formal networking groups and clubsWhenever people talk about business networking, I’m sure this is what comes to mind initially. Most of these groups charge an annual subscription as well as a small fee for each meeting. The members in each group pool their resources and use each other’s networks to be able to provide referrals for other members in the group. Many of these groups have a profession exclusivity policy – i.e. only one accountant, solicitor, business coach is allowed per group. These groups meet regularly, some as much as once a week, others as infrequently as once a month. A typical feature of these groups is the requirement that all attendees do a quick elevator pitch – which is often known as a 60 second or monthly minute (or for big groups, a 40 second slot). Very often there will be a presentation from one of the members of their group about their business. Normally this type of business networking group will allow you to attend as a visitor twice without having to formally join. Predominantly sole traders, micro business owners and small businesses frequent these types of groups. Examples of these types of groups include: BNI, 4Networking, B4B, Athena, WiB, WiRE, VIVA, The Women’s Business Club. 2. Women-only networking These are formal networking groups and clubs which limit their membership to women only. Unlike most formal networking groups, they tend to meet over lunch or in the evening, rather than breakfast. The rules of each group or club will be different, but these clubs also tend to expect attendees to do a short elevator pitch and may have a professional exclusivity policy. Similar to formal business clubs, sole traders (particularly party planners and multi-level marketers), micro business owners and small businesses frequent these types of groups. Examples of women only networking include: Athena, WiB, WiRE, The Women’s Business Club, City Women’s Club. 3. Parent-friendly networking These are networking clubs catering for business owners who traditionally find it difficult to get to networking clubs and groups because they look after children during the day. A feature of this type of networking clubs is that they tend to have a strong online community, meet in the mornings (after the school run!) and provide childcare at their meetings. For example, Mums The Boss provides a crèche at all their meetings, and Mums Business Club meets at “wacky warehouse” pubs. 4. Professional association events These are events which are hosted by a professional association. Most professional associations will host a series of events across the year which will be of interest and benefit to their members. Most of these events are free or heavily subsidised for their members. For example, if your business plan involved you meeting lots of accountants, have a look at the events hosted by the ICAEW. Members of the professional association may gain valuable CPD points as a result of attending the event. There is also the opportunity to meet senior decision makers of mid-large sized companies at these events. 5. Mastermind groups These are groups of business owners who meet regularly to provide input, ideas and suggestions to help each other achieve their business goals. Apart from The Executive Village, there is normally a fairly high monthly membership fee, coupled with an expectation that all members of the group will attend all the meetings. Most mastermind groups are limited to one representative from each profession. Examples of mastermind groups include, The Executive Village, the Inspired Mastermind groups, Ecademy Blackstar boardroom events, Vistage groups, ActionCOACH‘s profit groups. 6. Drop-in events These are events hosted for businesses by the Chambers of Commerces, Institute of Directors, “The Best Of” franchisees, the FSB. Often the event is themed around a speaker, and there is no requirement for attendees to do an elevator pitch. There is sometimes a charge for the events but normally the invite list is open to everyone. They can take place at any time in the day. 7. Community-related causes These are groups of people who join together to support a community related cause. These are normally good places to meet senior decision makers from mid to large sized companies who normally wouldn’t be out networking. 8. Volunteering Giving up some of your time to help in a charity or school is still a form of networking. If you are looking to meet senior decision makers from mid to large sized companies then do consider becoming a school governor or a trustee of a local charity.
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