Networking, meeting people. Turning up into a room when everyone knows everyone, they are best of friends, been working together forever, won’t be interested in anything I say, do, want to tell them. Maybe I shouldn’t go, maybe I can site behind my laptop forever and just get clients that way or from friends and family.
That was a tiny piece of my mind before I started networking and went to any event. It was a negative and nervous place. Unfortunately (for businesses like mine where I need to see people!) I can’t sit behind my laptop on social media forever. What I found when I did turn up at events was that it was a group of people like me who have their own business and would like to tell me and everyone else in the room about it. The more you think about it, the worse you can make it in your head so it is best to book as soon as possible. Some events are members only, some are coffee mornings where you can turn up whenever you are free. Some charge a lot (for good reason), some charge a little.
I decided that I would try a few events, organisations and lunches to see what worked for me. This is an important point – not all work for all and don’t expect to book every client you meet as well as none at all. Have a read and see how I got on at each one…..I’ve not tried every one in my area yet as I need the times to work for me when I don’t have to take the tiny human but hoping to as now I’ve tried one it’s made it so much easier to turn up and make friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
ThebestofSudbury – An evening with the Best of Sudbury, local businesses join to meet, have a pint (it’s in a bar so rude not to!), put your card in to win, speed networking, presentations and further details on other events or members. Monday evenings once a month from 5.30pm at the Quay Theatre bar.
I struggle with evenings but organised the tiny one so I could attend for the first time. Lovely bunch of people who genuinely want to meet the “new girl” and chat about what I and they do. Met a funeral director (with a fab sense of humour!), Storage company, accountant, bookkeeper, jeweller, dog sitter / walker and a website designer. (More people were there but I ran out of time to speak to them!) All very useful people who I have used for quotes and advice since. Although walking in felt a bit nervy, it was fine. I would definitely attend again but will always struggle at this time, plus I want my business card to win! I’d recommend this to anyone, especially as you can dip in and out rather than go every month – which you can do if you wish as there’s something different each month.
WIBN – The Women in business network, Bury St Edmunds. This was a Thursday lunch midday – 2pm, they meet once a month and is members only but obviously you can visit once for a lunch fee to see what you think.
Officially my Thursdays are my days with the tiny human but I worked it so I could visit the Woolpack for lunch one month, wanted to see what it was like in case my days every changed. Another lovely group of people, members can join but they ensure there is only 1 person doing any service in the group. Had a lovely lunch, discussed what we did and then met up for 121s to discuss in more detail. The group was quite small when I went but is obviously working on growing at the moment. I have decided not join at the moment due to cost (starting up means I have to choose where to spend wisely) but would recommend it to anyone based in BSE or the A14 corridor as other groups which you can visit / link up with are in Cambridge and Ipswich. I’d recommend this for SMEs wanting to grow further rather than start ups (my opinion, start ups can join).
Menta – Coffee means business with Menta, monthly Thursdays 9.30am – 11.30am, pay £2 on arrival and chat, swap business cards and see presentations. Lots of various people from all services / local areas.
Again, you don’t have to be a member and can just turn up but is a Thursday morning so I needed to organise the tiny human to go. This was a bit more daunting as you have to approach people as they are chatting in 2s or as a group but if you spend a few seconds on reading body language you can see who best to talk to. I met some interesting and very interesting people……remember that anyone can turn up…..but it was very worthwhile and I would recommend it to anyone. I will attend again as I have kept the business cards of people I met who will be helpful in the future.
Expert Circles – Another members network but you can attend as a visitor for a free breakfast and members can bring others along for the price of a breakfast. They meet fortnightly at Newton Green Golf Club on Wednesdays from 6.45am – 9am.
I’ve found I work best in the mornings, I am a morning person, I am more productive and more “with it” first thing. Plus the tiny human is away Tuesday nights so I am free to go whenever I can!! This is the one I decided to join, you get breakfast, coffee or tea, round table for 60 seconds on your business and each meeting is different with further information on other businesses and presentations which are always interesting and informative. I would again recommend these to anyone, members are kept to a limit for time reasons but worth a visit!
All of the above are linked so take a look at the events and information to see when the next ones are, all worth a visit if you are a first-timer even if just for practise and to get over nerves. Not everyone is best friends and they do want to hear what you have to say, I have to admit I’m a complete convert and really enjoy it now, love meeting new people to build my “team”.
As mentioned above, I’ve not tried every networking event so please get in touch or send me details if you know of any I should give a try. If they involve food even better….!!