It doesn’t work.
It’s a waste of money.
There’s so much pressure.
There’s three other people in the room all with a similar business to me.
It’s only people talking to each other about random stuff, that’s no good for business.
It’s just a load of people inflating their own egos by telling everyone how great they are.
These are all opinions which I have heard over the years from various people who have thrown their hat into the business networking arena, only to swiftly retrieve their hat, plant it firmly on top of their heads and run as fast as they can in the opposite direction, never to be seen again!
They’ve dragged themselves to one meeting, received not one sniff of any new clients out of it, leading them to the hasty conclusion that it’s a non starter and declaring what a farce the whole networking world is for business owners.
Or they’ve invested heavily into a huge organisation on the cast iron guarantee that they will absolutely benefit from thousands of pounds of extra revenue and that the business couldn’t possibly be successful without this shiny new addition; only to find themselves seriously out of pocket.
Alternatively they have been to countless meetings, allocating huge portions of their working week and rocking up to a plethora of different events, spreading themselves high, low, far and wide. Casting the net into every conceivable corner, suffering from networking burnout and not seeing their efforts come to fruition in the form of increased business.
So here’s the thing, every single one of those people are totally correct.
Yes you heard me right, they are correct!
Bet you didn’t think I’d be saying that did you?!
Now before you think I’ve gone even more stark raving bonkers than you know me to be, hear me out and I’ll explain why all of these opinions are completely valid.
Let me tell you I have endured many, many networking meetings when I have my felt my will to live not only dwindle, but curl up and die inside me!
I’ve been bored senseless with my brain in overdrive thinking of all the other much more important things I could be doing instead of sat in a room, virtual or real, trying to force my attention span out of the goldfish mode it has itself lurched into.
There have been others at the same meeting who have found it utterly riveting, gushing afterwards about what an amazing event it has been and that they simply cannot wait until the next one.
I’ve been quietly flabbergasted and wondering what they picked up on that I didn’t?
How had this been so appealing to them and so tediously dull to me?
Was I the problem here?
No, of course I wasn’t, nor was it the meeting which was inherently poor.
It just wasn’t the right kind of event for me.
There are quite literally thousands of networking events out there to choose from and they all have different formats, attract different crowds and have their own way of doing things.
Finding the combination that works for you is super important, because if you don’t, you could well fall into the “It’s boring” trap and you don’t want to spend your time there if you don’t have to.
Ask yourself, was it the format of the meeting that you didn’t like, or was it the host that you didn’t warm too?
Was there a speaker that didn’t hold your interest or were the other attendees not your cup of tea?
Maybe it was the length of the meeting that was a bit much for you?
Think about every element of the event to decide which parts you liked and which were the components you found unbearably mind numbing.
Instead of writing off all networking events as boring, look at is as a learning curve, like you probably do with most other areas of your business when you embark on something new.
You’ll now know exactly what you don’t like so you can look for something else to go to that does things in a different way.
With anything in life there is often the argument that you get what you pay for and the more expensive it is, the better it is, but that’s not always the case.
I have been to networking meetings that I have shelled out handsomely for under the above assumption, only to have been bitterly disappointed with my experience.
There are oodles of free networking and low cost events out there, networking doesn’t have to be an expensive venture.
It can be an area that you feel is worth investing large sums of money in because you see a profitable return on your funds.
Everyone has a different bench mark for the term ‘expensive’ though. You may think that £25 for one meeting is reasonable, someone else may disagree, labelling that far too pricey.
We all have our own individual financial expectations and boundaries in life and the price you’re prepared to pay for your networking is no different.
So yes, people who say networking is expensive could be correct, however it doesn’t have to be a money draining area.
Set yourself a budget, how much do you want to spend on networking?
Ask yourself what you feel comfortable paying?
Look out for free events, free trials, attending events as a guest and low cost, high value networking organisations that won’t send your bank balance into a negative frenzy.
“It doesn’t work”
So there are many people out there who have taken the time to go networking and proclaim that it just doesn’t work, usually because they gained no new business after delving into some meetings.
And yes, it would be an easy fact to conclude if the pounds don’t start ringing up, however, there are also many other factors to take into account before making such a generalised sweeping statement such as this.
Statistics from around the world not only show, but prove, that business networking is actually an important aspect and one which not nearly enough people participate in.
I’ve been to plenty of events and not been rubbing my hands together in glee afterwards because it has immediately resulted in my bank balance increasing.
I have also met lots of people through networking who I have mentally ‘earmarked’ as I know that whilst I don’t need their products or services at that moment in time, I would would definitely like to find out more about them as I may require their expertise further down the line.
I tend to think of networking as a ‘’slow burn’ and it’s an area that demands a long term commitment.
Take the time to really get to know people, to find out what their business is all about and how they work.
Networking is about building relationships and if that’s not something you’re allocating the time to do then claiming that ‘it doesn’t work’ would actually be a very reasonable statement to stand by.
Anyone who has immersed themselves into the networking world will be fully au fait with the term ’one to one’ which basically means having a private conversation with someone you meet at another time, be it face to face or virtually.
This ideally needs to be a regular part of your networking strategy and if it’s not you won’t be reaping the benefits that networking can bring to many areas of your life, not just your business.
Allowing the time to do this gives each of you a chance to share information and begin getting to know each other. You may not be perfect clients for one another but you never know what connections somebody has, who they could introduce you to or what these conversations could lead to now, or in the future.
“It’s a waste of money”
It absolutely could be an entire waste of your hard earned cash if you’re not prepared to put in a little effort to make it work for you. Like anything in life if you do it half-heartedly you’re definitely not going to gain the results you want.
As I mentioned, networking doesn’t have to be a costly venture for anyone, you are in control of how much money you allow for attending events and ultimately you are in the driving seat of how effective networking is for you.
If you’re not happy with the results you’re seeing and the money you’re shelling out, go back to the drawing board and reassess what you’re doing.
Are you networking in the wrong places for you?
Are you connecting with everyone you meet across various social media channels, exchanging contact details, having those all important follow up one to one conversations?
Think about how you are presenting yourself to the people you meet, are you conveying the right message and image that you want to portray? If sixty second pitches or similar are part of the meetings you go to, have you nailed yours? Does in capture people’s interest so they want to find out more about you?
There are many other factors that can contribute to this area, spending time analysing what you’re doing and coming up with a networking strategy that works for you will pay you dividends and ensure that this networking gig is not a waste of money.
“There’s so much pressure”
Now this can most definitely be the case with some networking organisations, but it is also true to say that there are many which don’t operate in this way.
When members are heavily pressurised to invite guests, give referrals, show how much business has exchanged hands and are penalised for non attendance of a meeting, it often ends up becoming a miserable experience and more of a chore than a pleasure.
Some people absolutely love this style of networking, but it’s not right for everyone and if it’s not for you be very wary of committing long term and heavily investing.
If an organisation that has high expectations of its members requires you to sign up for a year make sure you have thoroughly checked it out before you take the plunge.
Take advantage of the maximum number of free guest meetings you can attend and speak to as many members as you can to get as many different viewpoints as possible to help you decide if it’s the right place for you to be spending your time and money.
Gain as much insight as you can into what you can and can’t do and what is expected of you as there are often very specific rules in place which have to be abided by. Don’t rely on the host for all of this as you may get a rather more rose tinted vision than how the members feel.
Personally, I am not a fan of this format of networking and there are plenty of events out there where this doesn’t exist and again it comes back to finding the right style of networking that suits you.
“There’s three other people in the room all with a similar business to me”
Does this really matter?
If you think that this is a problem, then it will be! Think collaboration, not competition!
You are the only person that can do exactly what you do, in the way that you do it because we are all totally unique.
You can allow yourself to take umbrage over this or you recognise the differences and focus on those.
Just because there are other people at a meeting that offer a product or service that is the same as you, no, it really doesn’t matter one tiny bit; and I’m sure you already know why.
The classic, cheesy but ultimately very true phrase ‘people buy people’ is why this doesn’t matter.
You are bringing to the table your personality, your way of doing things, your personal experiences, your unique story and everything else that makes you, you.
We are all naturally drawn to certain personality types and have our own preferences as to the people we want to work with, the harsh reality is that some people will like you, some won’t. Some people will want to work with you, some won’t.
You yourself will know from your own experiences that you have chosen to engage with one person or business over another, it could be based on price, service, quality, location, values and many other different aspects.
And that is absolutely OK, normal, right and proper and as it should be.
“It’s only people talking to each other about random stuff, that’s no good for business”
Now this is another one that you could choose to look negatively.
Yes, this could absolutely be the case on the surface, however all those random conversations add up massively and are at the heart of networking.
Relationship building, getting to know people, finding out what makes people tick, understanding what’s important to people, their morals and values, whatever you want to call it, that’s what forms the basis of networking.
It may seem trivial, but it all goes towards building up a picture of somebody. Not only do you want to work with somebody you like, respect and trust, others are also checking you out to form their own opinions.
You could choose to look upon this stuff as just inane drivel that serves no purpose whatsoever in the business world, or you could enjoy it and have fun getting to know people.
Showing the real person behind the business cannot be underestimated. It doesn’t need to be the ‘warts and all’ version as we all have our own personal boundaries when it comes to what we are comfortable sharing with people; but this stuff is so important, even if on the surface you don’t think it is.
“It’s just a load of people inflating their own egos by telling everyone how great they are”
It is people telling everyone how great they are, and yes they take pride in what they do and want to spread their message.
Yes, knowing you are good at what you do, recognising that in yourself, being proud and feeling superb about it is wonderful!
Too many people don’t recognise their own incredible talents, having the presence of mind to own that shit and know you’re epic at what you do is awesome!
You wouldn’t try to make a good impression and gain new business by mumbling about your inept inadequacies, would you. Rather you would highlight what your strengths are so that everyone is aware of what you are offering.
Having clarity around your own skill sets and being able to confidently communicate them with conviction is what gives others the assurance they need that they can put their confidence in you, and vice versa.
You wouldn’t have much faith in someone if they had little belief in their own abilities.
It’s not about inflating egos, it’s about showcasing your capabilities with passion and knowledge.
If doing that makes you feel uncomfortable there’s lots of ways you can make it easier for yourself so you can get used to shouting it from the rooftops.
A good place to start is to write a list of all your accomplishments, in your personal life as well as in business. We often go through situations in our behind the scenes life that translate into transferable skills in business that show courage, strength, tenacity and resilience.
Remind yourself of all you have achieved on a regular basis, from learning a new skill, to landing your dream client or hitting a goal that you’ve set yourself.
Get comfortable with recognising and rewarding yourself for all the great work that you do, the more familiar this becomes to you, the easier it will be to share it with others.
If it feels like it’s a step too far out of your comfort zone, take baby steps and think about seeking out confirmation from previous clients in the form of a testimonial. They are so powerful in embedding confidence in your work and because it’s not coming directly from you it can often be more palatable if you’re struggling to really put yourself out there.
I hope you’ve found this even the tiniest bit helpful when it comes to navigating the networking world and if you’ve yet to give it a try I just happen to hold some pretty cool events myself, you should definitely come and give them a try to see if you like them! Check out the links below for more info.