‘Where are some good places to network?’ As the COSE MindSpring ‘Networking Strategies’ Expert, I get that question a lot. It’s very difficult to answer, especially briefly. The long answer involves a lot of work answering several other questions first.
Networking is simply a process for ‘sharing information, ideas and resources’, as John Naisbitt defined it in ‘Megatrends’ back in 1982. Networking is all about information you need to find or can share with others. So, to those other questions:
- If you harness the power of Networking with a Strategic Plan, you’ll first precisely define your networking objectives. What kind of information are your trying to find and why is that important to you or your business?
- ‘Getting new business’ isn’t a networking objective. It’s much too vague and more a fantasy goal than a realistic objective. ‘Meeting people who can point you in the direction of potential new business opportunities’ is an improvement. ‘Meeting sales professionals currently using a software-based contact management system?’ is even better. Effective networking objectives are specific, focused and easy for others to understand.
- If you know specifically what you’re looking for, what kinds of people can help you accomplish your objectives? In the previous example, sales people, sales trainers or sales consultants would be a good start. So, the ‘what’ of your objective drives the ‘who’.
- Now that you know the kinds of people you want to meet, where do you find them? While you might find some at most any professional group event, that process is random, inefficient and not very productive. You’re better off identifying events where a large number of them might be in the same place. Given our example, events sponsored by a local sales or marketing-oriented group would be good choices. So would most any COSE or Chamber of Commerce event, where lots of entrepreneurs are involved in the selling process for small businesses. Also consider workshops or seminars dealing with sales or CRM-related topics. The ‘who’ drives the ‘where’.
- If you’re not sure about appropriate events or venues, ask the people you do know in those fields what events they attend or groups they’re involved with. That question becomes another specific networking information objective.
So, the answer to the question ‘Where do you go to network’ really depends on the answers to a lot of other questions. The ‘what’ drives the ‘who’ and the ‘who’ drives the ‘where’. Simple – yes, but not necessarily easy. Maybe that’s why they call it ‘net-WORK’.