I’ll be honest – the thought of going to a networking event freaks me right out. My palms get sweaty, my stomach hurts, and I secretly hope that something will come up right at the last minute so I don’t have to go. But I know that’s it very important that I go.
Not only are networking events a great way to step outside of your comfort zone and increase your confidence, they will also help to:
Increase the visibility of your business
The more events you go to, the more times you share your knowledge, insight, support, and guidance, the more recognizable you’ll become. And with recognition come leads and referrals and possibly even strategic alliances. This is because you’ll likely be more top of mind than someone in your industry who only attends an event once or twice. It’s important to nurture these new relationships right out of the gate though so always grab business cards and do follow-up right away.
Keep you current on trends in your industry as well as those of your target market
The business world changes quickly and chances are you may have missed a change or two. When you go to a networking event, especially one put on by your professional association, or one targeted specifically to your customer, you’ll be able to glean information about current and future trends that you may not otherwise have been privy too. This insight can prove powerful as it will give you a competitive edge by giving you intimate knowledge of both what your industry demands and what your customer needs.
Provide learning opportunities
A huge draw at many events is the keynote speakers. These speakers are often experts in their fields who can impart not only important information but also provide motivation and inspiration to try new things in your business (or to stop doing certain things). Being in the presence of high achieving individuals can go a long way in helping you to reach even higher for your business.
Connect you with potential new suppliers and maybe even recruit a new employee or two.
You never know who you might meet at a networking event: a new accountant, a lawyer, a financial advisor, a new printer, a graphic designer, you get the idea. You could even meet someone who can solve a problem you didn’t know you had. You might even come across someone who could be your next potential star employee.
Encourage you to talk to real live people and have a change of scenery
When you work in an office all by yourself, sometimes it gets lonely so a networking event can provide some much needed human contact (or adult conversation if you’re home with little ones!). Even if you don’t work alone, a networking event can be a pleasant change of pace from the ordinary routine, break up your work week, and help to recharge your batteries.
So where do you look for networking events in your area? Here are a few ways to get started:
- Meetup.com: Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups with over 9,000 groups worldwide and counting and allows you to search for groups or events by category (i.e. Careers & Business) or by keyword. You can also specify how far you are willing to travel for a group or event.
- Toastmasters.org: If you’re nervous about public speaking or just want to increase your confidence, Toastmasters can help. With over 15,400 clubs in 135 countries, it’s easy to find a Toastmasters near you.
- Your local Chamber of Commerce: The role of a chamber of commerce is to bring local businesses together to achieve and maintain a healthy and strong business community. As part of this service, they often host their own events such as business mixers as well as list business events in the community.
- Forum For Women Entrepreneurs: The FWE provides women entrepreneurs with the education, empowerment, and energy they need to become wildly successful entrepreneurs. They also put on multiple events throughout the year in select Canadian cities.
- Your local library: A quick look at my local library reveals a number of upcoming events on everything from Business, Law, and Money to Education and Learning as well as Health & Wellness. Never underestimate the power of your local library to offer convenient and affordable events.
- Your local co-working space: Co-working is a style of work that involves not only a shared working environment but often also events that are open not only to the members of the space but also to the general public for free or for a very low fee. It’s a great way to learn more about co-working and also meet other entrepreneurs. My local co-working space often puts on Friday night mixers for the local business community.
- Your local Rotary: The goal of the Rotary International is to bring people together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world. You can search for your local Rotary chapter by visiting rotary.org/en/search/club-finder.
- Your local community college: A networking event doesn’t have to be a formal sit down dinner or appetizers and wine kind of event. It can also be a class or seminar with other like minded individuals. Your local community college is a great place to look for classes based on your interests or business needs such as upgrading certifications or learning a new skill set. You never know who you might cross paths with in a class.
- Mompreneurs®: Mompreneurs® is dedicated to the support, education, and promotion of women entrepreneurs across Canada and hosts live events in select cities..
And last but certainly not least, the Edmonton chapter of EMom Now does hold events in their local area that you are always welcome to join.