Networking opportunities for business professionals are abundant and critical to the success of your business. As part of an overarching business strategy numerous networking opportunities should be identified, including local business chambers, professional associations or industry bodies. As a business owner, it would be near impossible to make an appearance at every possible networking opportunity available to you, so if you can adopt a “divide and conquer” strategy. This will enable you to share the responsibilities and opportunities for networking across the business.
Empowering team members to network on behalf of the business is a great way to build team morale, develop staff skills and allow them to view and experience the business from a different perspective. So don’t dismiss networking opportunities you feel aren’t appropriate for you, for example women in business forums if you are a male or a young professional event when you are well over the qualifying age. Take a look around and see if there’s a female or junior team member who would relish the opportunity – and delegate.
Here’s a list of networking opportunities that should be considered and why they could work for you and your business:
Many professional associations and organisations provide networking opportunities across all levels of business from graduates and junior employees to CEO round tables. The old school of thought used to be that only the more senior people in a business networked in client or business development opportunities, leaving the junior staff to network with peers and third party suppliers. Professional associations have started turning this on its head which opens up plenty of new opportunities for your business. Over the years I’ve spent in the commercial property industry, I’ve witnesses many decisions around the appointment of consultants made not by the management hierarchy but by the people working on the project. Developing relationships with people at the beginning of their career is likely to pay dividends down the track.
Industry associations are a very traditional networking opportunity, a standard approach to networking is assumed, i.e. conversation around industry based issues, sharing of business cards etc.
Non for profits
This is a great place to be if you’re just looking to network with likeminded people from a similar industry without the sales or business development pressure. Refer to our blog on how joining a committee or volunteering can benefit your career.
Involvement in these organisations can lead to unique sponsorship opportunities for your business or organisation and contribute to your company’s corporate social responsibility measurement.
Networking isn’t always obvious when you engage in professional development such as further study, accreditation or training. It is however a unique opportunity to develop rapport with people from either your own industry or others. It can be tempting to use the coffee and lunch breaks to attend to missed calls and emails or stretch your legs, but taking the time to have conversations with the others in the room could open up a whole world of opportunity for you or your business.
Conferences are the networking pinnacle, most people will happily tell you that the primary reason they attend conferences is for the networking. Costs are often prohibitive from having the entire team attend but there are other ways to make sure you get the golden ticket, these include volunteering with the organisers, participating in the expo, attending only a part of the conference i.e. the welcome cocktails or gala dinner. Being a content provider i.e. hosting an excursion is a great way to get a number of your employees involved.
Another great way to get the whole team involved is to buy an all access pass and share it around – this allows the right people in the business to attend the most relevant conference workshops or talks rather than one person sitting through everything. If that’s still not possible, a great thing about conferences these days is being able to follow the event via the event hashtag so while you may miss the face-to-face you’re not missing out on the online conversation.
Don’t know when to stop networking? Knowing when not to network is as important as knowing when to – check out this blog if you think you are crossing the line.
About the Author: Michelle Bishop is a Director of Max & Buddy Consulting. Her experience in the Commercial Property Industry has provided unique perspectives into organisational change, motivation and workplace culture. Michelle has a passion for people and is a representative for several non for profits, charities and Government boards and committees who benefit from her creative, strategic approach and extensive professional network. Michelle has studied at Post Graduate Level in Management at Sydney Business School. Michelle’s approach is collaborative, strategic and outcome focused.