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On Networking Groups Part One

On Networking Groups (Part One)
I have been trying to​ think about how I​ can talk about this subject and​ address it​ in​ a​ way that would be fair and​ balanced without injecting too much personal opinion and​ have decided to​ first talk about the​ types of​ groups and​ then later on be more specific .​
It is​ important to​ remember that you will have preferences that may not align with mine, but that each of​ us share a​ common goal in​ our networking .​
More business and​ possibly more friends .​
So lets begin by analyzing the​ various types of​ groups .​
There are many different types of​ groups, but it​ is​ easier to​ categorize them by the​ meeting format rather than using individual categories like chambers of​ commerce or​ women's groups.
Most groups fall under one of​ 4 main categories .​
These are Social Networking, Business Networking, Leads Groups and​ Networking with a​ Program.
Social Networking
Social networking is​ a​ part of​ our daily lives whether we realize it​ or​ not .​
Each time we attend any function that involves a​ group of​ people we are networking on a​ social level .​
Whether we are attending a​ charity event, going to​ a​ party at​ a​ friends house, going to​ a​ religious service, or​ attending an​ organized social networking event, we are in​ a​ networking environment.
In most cases a​ large part of​ participation in​ these groups is​ not related to​ business .​
However, there are always opportunities to​ meet people who could be or​ know prospective clients .​
When you attend these types of​ functions, it​ is​ advised to​ have some business cards in​ your pocket in​ case you meet someone else who is​ networking for​ their business, but remember that business networking is​ not the​ primary purpose of​ the​ function, so be very casual in​ the​ way you approach others about your business.
Social Networking Tip:
Never assume that any individual at​ these functions is​ not a​ good prospect for​ your business .​
You will find many opportunities there .​
It is​ just good to​ remember that people are there for​ many reasons and​ may not want to​ talk about business.
Business Networking
Believe it​ or​ not there are very few groups or​ organizations that are simply business networking groups .​
This category, for​ the​ purpose of​ our discussion is​ reserved for​ groups that do not have speakers or​ programs .​
An example of​ business networking would be similar to​ a​ chamber of​ commerce after hours .​
In business networking, you simply gather together with other business associates to​ talk about your businesses.
I find it​ much better to​ have a​ lot of​ time to​ talk to​ people about my business rather than have a​ brief period to​ talk and​ then have to​ sit down and​ listen to​ a​ program .​
This format enables you to​ really get to​ know people in​ the​ allotted amount of​ time .​
In some cases you can even do business with someone who you have met for​ the​ first time.
This format allows you to​ get to​ know people very well and​ sometimes helps to​ jump-start the​ relationship without having to​ meet for​ lunch or​ coffee at​ a​ later time .​
The only thing that makes this format difficult is​ if​ you are shy .​
For the​ shy individual it​ is​ sometimes not easy to​ just walk into a​ room and​ start talking to​ people they do not know .​
Business Networking Tip:
Build a​ core contact group of​ people that you see at​ several different meetings .​
This will give you a​ broad base of​ contacts through these people as​ they are building their networks .​
Always get to​ know the​ most popular people in​ the​ room .​
They will often know most of​ the​ others and​ can help to​ expand your network quickly
Leads Groups
Leads groups are very structured .​
This is​ the​ largest segment of​ business networking .​
There are several formats to​ leads groups that vary in​ slightly different ways .​
In most cases the​ leads group involves sitting around a​ large table .​
Usually a​ leads group is​ limited to​ one person per industry .​
So if​ you wanted to​ be a​ part of​ a​ leads group that already has one of​ your type of​ industry, you could not join that group until there is​ an​ opening for​ you created by that person leaving.
Usually leads groups are about 5 to​ 20 persons in​ size .​
In most leads groups you are given a​ set amount of​ time to​ stand up and​ talk about your business ranging from 2 to​ five minutes depending on the​ size of​ the​ group .​
This is​ a​ dedicated time, no one else speaks and​ you take turns.
Leads groups are good for​ people who are shy or​ for​ those who have difficulty in​ a​ meeting with no structure .​
If you are a​ member of​ a​ good leads group, members are actively seeking referrals for​ other members .​
This can lead to​ a​ great deal of​ business if​ you consider the​ fact that everyone has a​ personal network of​ about 200 hundred people .​
This does not mean that it​ is​ the​ best format of​ meeting or​ not a​ good format, but rather it​ is​ good for​ you if​ you prefer structure .​
Leads groups generally meet early in​ the​ morning or​ for​ lunch.
Leads Groups Tip:
Be sure to​ enable the​ members of​ your leads group to​ help you .​
Give them tools that they can carry to​ represent you when they encounter someone who needs your product or​ service .​
Be sure that everyone understands what you do and​ who your best prospects are.
Networking with a​ Program
A lot of​ trade associations and​ chambers of​ commerce follow this format .​
The meeting usually starts with open networking for​ a​ period of​ 15 minutes to​ an​ hour .​
It is​ then followed by a​ presentation by a​ guest speaker or​ a​ current member.
In this environment, you will not have much time to​ really get to​ know people unless you always attend the​ meetings .​
In most cases these meetings are best for​ initial contact followed up by meeting prospects for​ coffee or​ lunch .​
It is​ advised that you use a​ system of​ taking notes and​ qualifying prospects for​ later follow-up.
Generally these meetings end after the​ presentation and​ people linger for​ 15 to​ 30 minutes before clearing the​ room.
Networking with a​ Program Tip:
Get to​ know the​ leaders of​ the​ organization .​
In most cases they will know a​ great deal about the​ members as​ they work their way up the​ ranks into a​ leadership role .​
These individuals can be of​ the​ most help when seeking prospects or​ referrals.
Summary
As I​ said at​ the​ beginning of​ this article, your feelings on these definitions may vary from mine .​
It is​ important when seeking meetings to​ attend or​ groups to​ join that you have defined goals on what you are trying to​ accomplish .​
Be specific when setting these goals .​
Remember business does not always come in​ the​ first contact or​ meeting .​
Be consistent for​ best results .​
Try to​ balance your networking with a​ combination of​ the​ types of​ groups and​ meetings that you attend .​
Each has it's own unique benefits and​ can help you with a​ well rounded presence in​ the​ business community.

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