It’s no great secret that your and your business partners’ professional networks will undeniably aid you in aiding your company expand, enter new markets and gain new clients. But the question is, if you don’t have an access to a strong professional network – how can you build it? And more importantly how can you actualize it?
1. University Alumni – University alumni networks are a great place to start building your network. You and the others have one fairly strong thing in common, which is your school, most if not all universities have alumni networks and encourage their alumni to work together.
If you have access to an online database – even better, but when contacting people you effectively don’t know, it’s important not to come off as if you’re selling something. Be inquisitive ask questions, and see if you can have a sit down over some coffee. Basically, get to know the person before you ask them for a favor.
2. Local Group Meetings – Cities will typically have interest based clubs / meetings which focus on any given subject or topic – a good place to find these groups is meetup.com – and while typically you won’t find the crème de la crème of your industry, it’s a good way in nonetheless.
3. Family – Talk to moms, dads, uncles, aunts and other family members. You never know whom someone may know, and that someone they may know may be the person that you need to speak to. Family can oftentimes be a great starting point for your network.
4. Online Networks – LinkedIn and Xing are a great way to expand your network as well. If you haven’t joined any groups that are of interest to you, do so, and more importantly, start conversations and topic on those groups that are of interest to you.
5. Conferences – Conferences are a great place to meet people, and more importantly people in your industry, though before heading to any conference do some research on it, see what others have said, and if it’s worth going.
6. Private Clubs – There is an array of clubs around the world that can help foster networking, be they Alumni Clubs such as the Cornell Club in New York, or the Royal Automobile Club in London, one thing is certain, your membership will have clear benefits.
7. Personality – Some people have it easier than others. For some who are extroverts meeting other people is as simple as turning on the kettle, for introverted individuals meeting new people can be quite difficult.
Let’s face it, each city of medium size and up has events slated at the entrepreneur, and they tend to fall into one of two categories. The speaker series, or the networking drinks series, but there are very strong underlying problems with each.
Let’s look at Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.
You sign up, you go, you are seated and then you listen to one guy speak for 30 minutes, then the next for another 30, then the third and are eventually moved into a space to network for 30 more minutes. Alternatively, you’ll get one speaker, and then a networking session on top of that.
Great, or is it. Aside from the fact that most speakers lack the charisma of a Barak Obama or Churchill, these series tend to go over time, and if people are sitting in a hall, you’ll find a percentage of the crowd dozing off. If the speaker series extends to two or three individuals this percentage will undeniably go up.
After the event is finished, everyone will huddle around the speaker and try to get a word in, in order to have a bit of face time and hope they’ll remember them. While the rest of the group stands in their corners talking to people they already know. Sounds familiar?
The Networking Drinks Series
You head to a bar, you get a “Hello my name is” tag and you’re supposed to network. But with whom? Who do you talk to, how can you get the most out of it, and what about those people who simply put aren’t good at talking to others, i.e. the introvert/extrovert scenario.
You have tons of these, Drink Tank in London, Founders Lounge in Barcelona, even First Tuesdays succumbs to this. A drinks – event is good fun, but it’s productivity is questionable. Why? Because you don’t know who will be at the event, nor will you know that if there are people there worth talking to you’ll necessarily network with them.
Long story short the current model is simply not efficient – and there are many means for innovation and improvement within events targeting the entrepreneurship sector.
So What About Solutions
Here’s the thing. When you’ve got a speaker, get the crowd involved from the onset, break them up into small groups, whether they know each other or not, it doesn’t matter, have them collaborate – bringing in people from different walks, industries is good, it opens them up to other ways of thinking and problem solving. Don’t make the interaction one way, make it tow way, or event triangular.
When putting on a networking event, don’t just plop people in a room and say network, see who’s coming and pair them up, have a few people putting on the event make introductions, ask people when they sign up, who they want to meet, what they’re looking for. Make the whole thing interactive.
And make it fun, whether it’s a speaker, a networking event, a funding event, what have you, be sure to make it fun, engaging, and provide something that all aprticipants will take away from it, bring valie to everyone involved.
F3FundIt is planning an event for later this year, if you are interested in learning more about it or how you can get involved – please send an email to info @ f3fundit.com with the subject line f3f-event. Thanks.