choosing a networking event

I’ve just got back from a networking business expo nearby, and on the drive back I started to think about what we as freelancers need to consider when choosing a networking event. Not all networking events are the same, and to get the most out of them you need to find the right one(s) for you.

So, what should you consider?

Introvert or Extrovert?

Introverted? There’s a good chance you’ll be on top form for an hour or two, but anything more than that will drain you. Check the length of the meetings. For me, a full day’s networking like today was a little too long for me. It’s also important to buffer in some recovering time after to recharge, so block out the afternoon or day after for low energy work. If you’re an extrovert, you might prefer a more high energy networking event.

Dress Code

Ok, I know this sounds like it might be a shallow consideration. I’m not suggesting you judge a networking event by who wears the best shoes. But I’m really not a suit-wearer (that was one of the best things I gave up when I left the corporate world). And my clients are rarely suit-wearers. So I tend to go for the ones with more relaxed dress codes. Equally, if you love nothing more than suiting up, and your clients are usually more corporate, those are probably more suited (pun intended).

Group Size

Are you looking for focused chats with a small group of people, or more brief chats with a larger group of people? Both have their benefits, but your preference is likely to depend on whether you’re introverted or extroverted.

Networking Format

Do you prefer a fixed structure, or a more relaxed environment? For some, a fixed structure with the opportunity to pitch to a group is attractive, whereas others fancy a morning of coffee and chat with other like-minded people.

Costs

How much does it cost to sign up? Some ask for an annual fee plus a sign up, while others just ask for the cost of a cup of tea or coffee. What works for your budget right now?

4 comments on “Five things to consider when choosing a networking event”

  1. I know I need to be attended more networking events now that I’m a freelancer, but it’s just so difficult as an introvert! Do you have any other tips for introverts at networking events?

    • Oh absolutely! I’m definitely an introvert. My top tips are:

      > Arrive early. It’s much easier to be the person people greet as they walk in, than the one who has to walk into a room of people talking. Otherwise, lurk around the coffee/tea/bar for each conversation starters.
      > Be the Questioner! The easiest way to approach conversations is with questions rather than worrying about pitching. And the most interesting people are the most interested people (and it’s easier to sell your skills if you actually know what they want). You’ll be a lot more approachable than the person steamrolling people with their pitches too.
      > Clear the diary after. You need recharge time, so don’t book in anything for a few hours after.
      > Rescue Remedy. It’s wonderful for calming nerves.

  2. I too have steered away from networking events for most of my (21-year) freelancing career as I thought I wasn’t the “networking type”. But that was largely because I had 1 or 2 discouraging experiences in the early days, plus heard lots about the hard sell groups structured around referrals, elevator pitches etc (like BNI & 4N). Also, lots of them seemed to be breakfast ones & I’m definitely NOT a morning person. However, I decided to bite the bullet early last year & tried out a local evening networking event. Very informal, mix of open networking plus 1-2 speakers, & alcohol – definitely good for steadying the nerves! I now go to that one most months & have met some lovely local small biz owners through it. I also recently joined a new Women in Biz one, which is mid morning. As you say, it’s all about finding one that’s the right fit for you.

    • So pleased you found one you like (and yes, sometimes a small glass can really help with those nerves)! I think there are different ones for different times in your life too. Since having my son, I’ve found some nice informal biz Mum meet ups (usually at soft plays), and there are some great apps to meet people 1-2-1 too if groups are intimidating.

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