If you saw our Facebook feed at 6am this morning (Tues 29th Oct), you would have seen me leaving the house in the dark and cold to attend a business networking event. The clocks going back and the sudden drop in temperature was a bit of a shock!
As I drove to the event I couldn't help think about why I was going and all the things I hate about business networking. Below I offload my top 5 pet hates as well as sharing some of the things I love.
Do you love or hate networking events? While they're an important way to grow your business in your local community many people find them difficult. If you're a bit introverted it can be very daunting rocking up at an event where you don't know anyone. You might also feel a bit out of place if you turn up at an event where everyone is suited and booted, whereas you have more of a casual or workwear dress code in your business. The format of some events can also a bit off-putting, which is why we're just launching our new Bordon Small Biz Networking events providing a more informal and friendly environment than some events I've attended in the past!
Scroll down for more details about these...
5 business networking pet hates
- Early mornings
No surprise to anyone who knows me, I'm not an early morning type of person. That said I understand why some networking events are hosted at dawn, giving everyone an opportunity to attend before they need to be at work.
Fortunately not all local networking events in the Bordon area start at stupid o'clock. The Bordon Business Exchange (held at the Royal Exchange, Lindford on the 2nd Tuesday of the month) starts at 8am, and you can still get to work at reasonable time. Our new Bordon Small Biz Networking events also alternate between an 8am start and a 5pm 'early doors' session £" much better for us late risers!
- Rubbish coffee
Another bugbear of mine is the quality of the refreshments! I know it's not easy to cater for a large group of people and inevitably that involves a thermos of tepid coffee and 'hot' water for tea drinkers. It's a bit unfair of me to criticise because often it's not the networking organiser's fault but the venue's. But there are alternatives!
If you know that the coffee isn't up to par, I recommend stopping off en route for a takeout and smuggling it in! Or otherwise use coffee as a barometer for the events you will attend: it's a great way to prioritise just a few regular networking sessions. Needless to say we've got a barista coffee machine at SiGNAL so you get excellent coffee when you visit us. Our 5pm sessions also feature a free beer or glass of wine...
- They can be really boring
I think networking should be fun! Meeting new people and learning new things is fun (that's two of the things I love about networking). But many events take themselves a bit too seriously and remove any fun or spontaneity out of the occasion.
I also think that we make better business connections when we're not trying too hard to be serious and professional. After all it's about relationship building, and relationships thrive on shared experiences and genuine connections. Of course we need to be professional, but not at the cost of becoming boring!
- Elevator pitches
Disclaimer £" I have an elevator pitch to use at networking events. Sometimes the format of a meeting is that everyone gets 30 seconds to introduce themselves and what they do. That's when an elevator pitch can be helpful so you don't have a mental block and forget who you are when it's your turn to speak.
However, I hate it when you're talking to someone one-to-one and they launch into their elevator pitch. It happens! Networking should be about talking and listening to each other, not delivering a well-rehearsed spiel selling your business.
- Shallow interactions
This pet hate leads on from the elevator pitch, when the interaction with someone is based purely on whether or not they (or you) think it's advantageous to make a connection. You know the type, the ones who glaze over the minute they decide you're not a potential customer.
I think it's such a missed opportunity to not put the effort in and really engage with other people in the room. You'll never know if you might find some synergy, a collaboration or even a supportive friendship, unless you give people a chance.
So those are my pet hates, but why do I continue to attend business networking events? Apart from it being part of my job remit, I also get a lot out of networking on a personal as well as professional level. Here's why:
3 reasons I LOVE networking
- Meeting passionate people
Sole traders, micro and small business owners are some of the most passionate people I've met in my professional life. They live and breathe what they do and that can be so inspiring and energising for the people around them. If you're ever feeling a bit despondent about your business I recommend going to a networking event and talking to other business owners to remind yourself why you do it.
- Learning new things
Many networking events include a short talk from guest speaker or member of the group. Sometimes you learn stuff that you can apply in your own business or work, other times you learn something that makes you a more well-rounded and knowledgeable person! Even when there's no formal talk I seem to always learn something new from simply chatting to other people.
- Making friends
Many of the people I meet at networking events are really open and friendly, often there's no clear line between where a professional relationship ends and a friendship starts. I find it really refreshing that people not only want to work with you but also want to be friends. There's nothing better than working with people you like and get along with, and for many people that's the differentiating factor about whether they will buy from you or not. I would rather give a local business my custom when I'm friendly with the people in that business, than buy from a faceless corporate or brand.
If you hate networking but understand why it can be beneficial to your business, come along to our new Bordon Small Biz Networking events. We aim to create an inclusive, informal networking environment where you can turn up and be yourself, make connections with other local business people and build professional relationships and even friendships!
All our events are listed on our Eventbrite page, they're free but we would like to have an idea of numbers (so we have enough refreshments to go round) so please book a ticket.
Simply scroll down our list of events to find the Bordon Small Biz Networking dates, click on the link and book your ticket - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/join-signal-17327165026
To find out about business networking events in and around Whitehill and Bordon, click here.