Maybe you think with the current pandemic and resulting limitations to in-person interactions that there is not much formal networking occurring these days. Think again!
There actually may be more networking occurring than ever before with virtual meetings allowing us to connect with anybody, anywhere. There truly is something for everyone when you are looking for a networking group.
Most professions have their own professional networking groups, often international or national, with local affiliates. I find these groups to be an excellence source for professional development and education, and, if you specialize, the members can be a great source of referrals.
Designated Networking Groups
Most people are familiar with Business Networking International. BNI is an excellent example of a more structured networking group. Personally, I have found BNI to be the most effective networking organization for my own business development. The contacts I have made within my own chapter, as well as many of those nationally and internationally, have become my own marketing team and boy, do they do a great job! If you are interested in learning more, whether in or outside of the Buffalo area, contact me to set up a visit.
Locally, there are many effective networking groups. My favorite, maybe because I am a co-founder 😀, is G.R.O.W. Buffalo Business. GROW goes beyond its weekly networking to provide free educational events and support to small business owners and professionals through its Facebook group. The highly involved members make it the wonderful group it is today with lots of exciting plans for the future.
Wherever you are located, give your local groups a try. Each has a different personality and appeals to different people and professions.
I started networking with women’s groups when we first moved to St. Louis in 2011. PWA – the Professional Women’s Alliance took me under their wings and gave me confidence in a whole new area.
Here in Buffalo, two of my favorite smaller women’s groups are: SheCAN and New York State Women Inc. Buffalo Niagara Chapter (NYSBNC). If looking nationally, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is terrific. Western NY’s chapter is here: . An internet search in your area is sure to reveal many more.
Another fabulous source of connection opportunities is cosharing workspaces. These typically are places where people who work from home go to be with other people while they work. These workspaces provide all you need to work while also providing helpful resources and giving a sense of community.
Currently, most of the WNY spaces offer virtual resources and/or plan to open as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Some highly recommended or anticipated spaces include:
- Visit multiple groups and attend multiple meetings with groups you feel would be most effective for your business. Decide from there the top 2-3 you would like to attend on a regular basis.
- Attend consistently. It takes time to develop strong relationships.
- Set up one-to-one meetings with those you meet within the group to get to know members better and help support each other in your businesses.
- Take on a bigger role within the group such as a committee leader, officer’s role, or event coordination.
- Take part in events outside of the group meetings. Be where people “let their hair down” for an even better way to get to know your people while enjoying a different activity or event.
- Connect with members through social media to continue the relationship and to learn more about your contacts.
- Finally, give all of this time. It takes time and multiple meetings for people to get to know and trust you. Once they do, all of your efforts become worth it, both professionally and personally as you extend your network of friends as well.
What is your next step toward starting or improving your networking efforts?