The other night one of the networking groups I attend turned out to be unusually intimate and we had an opportunity to have a very good discussion about networking groups, how they differ, and networking in general.
Networking is considered to be one of the most essential ways to generate new business. In spite of this I often hear people say they don’t like to go to networking events, even saying they are afraid to because it means talking to a lot of strangers. (This brings up an important thing to ask your self— If you aren’t comfortable meeting new people, then how are you going to bring in new clients?)
Something that might help with this is to look at the different ways they are set up. The ones I attend range from one called “The Schmooze” which I describe as “a cocktail party on networking steroids.” It is so massive that many first-timers are immediately overwhelmed, but once you figure out a strategy it can become fun (best to arrive early before the alcohol kicks in too much though!). On the other end of the spectrum are small groups that meet for lunch once a month to talk and build up relationships. Some are set up as leads groups you have to pay to join and are expected to supply a quota of referrals to other group members. Different times of day, philosophies, industry focus, personalities – you just need to take a little time to find the right fit.
Think of it this way—a stranger is a friend you just haven’t gotten to know yet, and they might turn out to be your best client!