So, it’s not quite the start to the year we were all hoping for but if you resolved to ‘do’ more networking in 2021 don’t let that put you off. Equally, don’t wait until face-to-face networking resumes. Over the last decade of running Opendoorz professional networking groups we’ve learned that the best way to approach networking, as with most things in life and business, is with a plan and carefully managed expectations. If you rock up to a networking group, maybe you even go two or three times, and expect to start seeing the contracts roll in – you are sorely mis-guided my friend.
The thing about networking is that it takes time and effort to build solid foundations from which you can start to build profitable relationships. When taking the plunge into a new networking group we recommend having a look at our step-by-step networking plan to help you get the best return on your membership fee.
Step 1:Find the right group
Networking groups vary in style and format so it’s best to try out a few to find the one that suits you best. Our Opendoorz guest events are very lively affairs but there’s still a strong meeting structure that ensures everyone gets something out of the meeting. Walking in or, at the moment, logging in to a new group can be daunting but the right group for you will quickly help you feel relaxed and welcome. You’ll get a ‘feeling’ that you’ve found the right place.
Step 2:Hone your introduction
You’ve joined a group and now it’s time to let people really get to know you. Love it or hate it how you introduce yourself and what you do is going to be hugely influential in the early days in shaping the opinions your fellow members have about you and whether you are of ‘use’ to them. Make an impact buy thinking about the story behind you and your business. Give examples of how you help your clients and inject a bit of humour if you can.
Step 3:Get personal
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the networking starts and stops with the formal meeting. What goes on outside of the meeting is equally as important and by that we mean the insights, or one to one meetings, you have with fellow members. At Opendoorz we strongly suggest members have 2 insights a month. It’s not a hard and fast rule but it helps emphasise the importance of developing relationships and really getting to know each other on a personal level.
Step 4:Put yourself in the spotlight
Most professional business networking groups give members the opportunity to showcase their business, products or services through presentations to the group and guests. At Opendoorz, we have two showcase presentations from members each meeting. We always emphasise the importance of using the opportunity to tell a story about how you’ve helped a client rather than presenting dry facts and figures. Your fellow members are more likely to see opportunities to refer you this way.
Step 5:Step up
Be brave and volunteer – put your hand up! At Opendoorz we encourage our members to step up within the meetings to lead continuous professional development sessions. These are not opportunities to ‘sell’ their business but are an excellent vehicle for demonstrating expertise and knowledge which absolutely puts them at the front of people’s minds in that area. The other way we help members raise their profile and build their credibility is through having Ambassadors. Ambassadors chair the regular meetings and liaise with guests.
Step 6:Get social
The last but not least step is to remember that whilst being serious about business you should also have fun! In fact, it’s one of our core values at Opendoorz. We regularly hold social events where members from across our 7 groups get together. Not only do we have lots of fun, it’s a brilliant way to meet and get to know members from other groups thus expanding your networking opportunities even further – winner, winner!
Following our step-by-step tips you can make 2021 a great and productive year of networking, whether via zoom or (fingers crossed!) face to face.
If you’ve resolved to get more out of networking in 2021 why not come along to one of our guest events? Opendoorz has 7 groups across Oxfordshire and Berkshire, each hosts a monthly guest event. To find out more about the different groups and to register for a guest event follow the link below. We’d love to welcome you along!