One of the things you can do as a “new networker” is explore different kinds of networking groups. A good place to start is on Facebook or Meetup.com. Do a search on Facebook for “(insert your city here) entrepreneur”. Many networking groups maintain a Facebook page, and if what you find isn’t necessarily a group that meets, you can certainly make a general post asking people about local networking groups.
Same with Meetup.com – search in business, entrepreneurs or even women empowerment.
There are some high level, well organized networking groups such as Le Tip or BNI. These have a somewhat steep membership fee, a weekly fee around $20.00, and they lock out competition, meaning if they accept you, you will be the only one in your field or occupation to be in that group. They also require you to bring and share leads. There is quite a lot of pressure to do this – it is a requirement of joining the group. Also, you are expected to attend every week. If you can’t attend, you are expected to find a substitute. For that reason, I am not ready for that kind of a networking group, because I don’t think my still small network would be of value to that group, nor do I want to spend that kind of money to join. However if someone invites you to tag along as a guest, go for it! You can go to two meetings as a guest, and in the case of BNI, you can go as a substitute for a member. That’s what I did.
I have found a couple of groups here in Las Vegas that are more low-key than the BNI-type groups, and much less expensive. You can certainly share leads and you might be the vehicle to introduce someone to someone else as a referral, but it is not mandatory – it is just a naturally occurring aspect of what networking really is.
Remember, the people you meet may not become your client, but they become a connection, and connections are who connect you to the people who will eventually become your client.
Try to remind yourself that everybody you see as you enter into the networking group was a newbie once, just like you. Be prepared, bring lots of business cards, SMILE, practice your elevator pitch in the car before you get there and look for the person who looks lost and you will be able to settle right in.
Here are some sites to help you with your elevator pitch if it needs some work:
If you are a new networker like me, I would love to hear about your networking experiences in the comments section. I hope you will take a deep breath and put yourself out there. It’s an opportunity to learn a lot about being an entrepreneur, to meet like-minded people, hear about products and services you might not have otherwise thought about or known where to find, as well as developing relationships with your future customers and clients.