Find a group or organization that offers valuable information and potential connections.
This can be a challenge, especially if you are just starting out. We struggle even now finding ones that are the right fit. Here are a guide from a previous post:
On a scale of 1-10 how influential will the speakers and/or other guests be to my:
If it’s 4 or higher, start planning your outfit. Even if there is a 40% chance you might meet someone who says something that inspires you it’s worth giving it a try.
- Is the host a friend/contact/work associate?
If yes.. You are going for sure.
- Were you invited directly?
Not by a mass email promotion, but did someone say, “Hey Aryn, come to my event.”?
Always go where you are invited. It’s a good policy that will reap huge benefits.
- Is it in a venue or neighborhood that interests you?
Being in the events business, I like to see and experience different venues and neighborhoods. I use the event as an excuse to scout.
A few places to start:
MeetUp offers a wide variety of groups, everything from professional book clubs to lawyer’s play racquetball. These tend to be free, but check your specific ones for details.
Another great out of the box option is Toastmasters. It sounds crazy, but dedicated professionals are always looking to better themselves, and this is one of the places those people go.
Professional organizations are usually formed around the idea of networking, it’s their mission to get you connected. Reach out to them directly or search their websites for information. Depending on the costs, it may or may not be worth joining. See if the events/education opportunities look interesting to you first.
In the events world, we joined a few: Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the International Live Events Association (ILEA). These memberships are not cheap, so you will have to weigh the benefits for you. Then the key is to actually go to the events they offer.
Industry meetings and conferences can be a great place meet new connections and clients. Again these can be costly both in time and resources so choose wisely.
Here are some things to look for:
- How big is the event? If you are comfortable standing out in a convention center filled with people, bigger is better. If you are someone, like us, who likes smaller, more intimate workshops and discussions that’s the one for you.
- Is Networking built in? In either case above, look at the agenda. If it is wall to wall keynote speakers and lecture style breakouts, there won’t be a lot of time for meet and greet.
- Are the speakers and subjects a fit for you and what you are looking for?
Some other ideas are; your local business district offices like ours – WHBID, Small business bureaus, your local Departments of Commerce and our favorite, start your own group on Facebook, LinkedIn or MeetUp and see who shows up.
Tip: Once you find an event, look and see who is speaking and/or attending. Look them up on LinkedIn or Twitter before the event (not in a stalkery way). Pull out some details and facts about their work to have conversation starters. Reaching out to them directly also can be great and arrange to have a drink/coffee together there.
Take a professional development class. This is a great way to meet peers, if not potential clients. There are many resources for this. Most universities have continuing education courses and most professional organizations either host classes or can point you in the right direction. Again, these can be costly, so make sure it is something you really want and /or need to do.
Our next networking post we will get you ready for your first event.
^Ax3 #Networking #Friendshelpfriends