What is the perceived value of network meetings?
These popular formal or informal meetings of potentially like-minded business people in a room over a breakfast, lunch or coffee are certainly a growing trend, with a large selection to choose from that could keep you out of the office most of the week, if that suited you.
My most recent invitation provoked me to think about this question, as my stomach lurched after I had parked and started my walk towards the venue.
I knew I was going to know no one, but that is the point, isn’t it? You catapult yourself into a room of badged people and introduce yourself, smile and scan their badge for an indication of their business sector, possible value or interest.
Or do you search out someone who you think will just be good company?
It turns out I am not alone in my feelings about entering a room for a business network meeting – I asked others if they felt the same. I inwardly say to myself, I hope it’s going to be worth it, but I do have a measure – I need to take one thing away with me that I have learnt, enjoyed or maybe just potential blog fodder to ensure my time felt worthwhile; recently I managed to achieve all three.
Every year I remind myself that it is essential to step outside of our perceived comfort zone on a regular basis, less we become entrenched in our familiar ways, which neither challenges nor offers us new opportunities. This philosophical approach of course applies to life in general not just work. It’s a bit like the health advice you read, you feel you know it all but doing it is another thing entirely. At times I feel I could write a bestseller book on ‘ how to eat yourself healthy!” but it hasn’t stopped me reaching for the crisps or chocolate on a regular basis!
What about networking and marketing yourself and business? What do you want from an event, what is your goal? I have mentioned mine, I am always looking for fodder to regurgitate, use and learn from, interesting business links are a bonus but not necessarily an expectation.
The business card has caused me some interest recently, an essential business tool that can be a vital reference point after the initial meeting.
I have met five people in the last week and this is what I received: two business cards with hand-written changes and stickers overlaying old information. One badly made and designed business card for a business that apparently offers business consultancy – I will say no more. And two people who had no business card, as they had been with the business two weeks and these hadn’t been organised yet – both of these people were also business consultants.
Perhaps I attract the unusual and out-of-the ordinary when I attend meetings or B2B events or just maybe no one else thinks it matters. I on the other hand like a business card, I look at the presented information, graphic design layout then check out the business website, social media links, as part of my active research.
One regular B2B attendee was known to review all meetings, possible leads and new business potential over a year, this was done by measuring social media engagements and potential new gained business. This analysis done, network meetings that were deemed unfruitful were no longer attended. Other B2B regulars were apparently critical of this pragmatic approach and were noted as thinking and saying this wasn’t the done thing. However as few meetings offer delectable food, the quality of the event has to be measured in pure business terms of value, and your time has a definitive value and the event costs, you do need to know what the gain has to be to ensure it is deemed worthwhile.
I am aware networking is a vital part of the business world so it is important that you find an event or medium that suits your business, work schedule and needs. After that decide what you want from the opportunity and go for it!
Our advice would be, never under estimate the value of a good business card.