My first experience with networking was over 7 years ago with the BNI Castle chapter in Norwich. I was invited by a friend and to say I was skeptical would be an understatement!
I was impressed. The whole concept of having lots of people from various different backgrounds all potentially promoting your business to others was, and is still fab. I watched in awe as referrals were passed amongst members, testimonials read out and business cards exchanged. Plus it was over breakfast so didn’t effect the rest of the day! So I joined.
Did it work for me? YES. Why did it work? I think it was because I really worked at it. I set a goal to each week book a one-to-one meeting with other members to find out more about them so I could refer them on easier. I found it easy to drop their names into conversations and actively listened for potential referrals on my magical travels. It took time but it was worth it. It’s not like popping an advert in a paper and then waiting for the phone to ring, with networking you had to work at it.
By helping others I found that it helped me in return. The catch phrase of the BNI of “Givers Gain” is certainly true.
My life took an about turn and then accepted a job! I then left the BNI but now I’m back to my true love – being a magician.
So now I think – do I rejoin the BNI? I went to my local Great Yarmouth chapter and saw that the BNI was still going strong. But there were now other networking opportunities to consider.
The BNI isn’t cheap. For me to join plus first year subs is over £600. Part of the membership is also a Minimum attendance requirement which for some can be additional stress. So what else?
Last week I attended my first Norfolk Wedding Business Club meeting. FANTASTIC!
Firstly all the attendees were specific to one customer group – weddings. Everyone therefore had a common interest. Secondly there is a small joining fee plus an attendance fee of £10 per meeting and you aren’t tied to any minimum attendance requirements. It was less formal than the BNI and didn’t have the referral passing on stage but nevertheless I saw plenty of business being done and close working relationships being developed. Am I going to join – you betcha! It was run in the evening too so no need to get up early either!
Whatever networking function you decide to attend please remember you need to work at it. People buy people and that is the beauty of networking.
Is networking worth it. I believe it is but you decide for yourself.