I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really liked networking events or groups.
You know, the ones where you meet up once a month and usually everyone there is just trying to sell you their wares. Plus you’ve usually had to pay for the pleasure to become a member.
(I usually just go when you get free access to your first meeting, to check out if it’s right for me and if it’s not, I never go back!)
As such I’ve always been a bit reluctant to attend networking events and have resisted when people have invited me along. In my experience it’s never been worthwhile.
This is not to say I don’t like networking or meeting new people. I love that! And all too often working on my own I get lonely and feel like I’m working in a bubble, where I don’t know anyone who thinks like me – the crazy radical who wants to change the status quo!
So the idea of getting out to events and meeting other people is really important. But I’ve tended to just focus on conferences and training as opportunities to meet other people (not to mention all the amazing connections I make online).
However, last week I decided to break with tradition and attend a Women’s Networking Event, called Network SHE.
A number of people had recommended them to me and this particular event was all about Women Entrepreneurship in Wales – right up my street. Plus, it was being held in a new venue which lots of people had mentioned to me as a possible space to just go and work from so I wanted to check it out. If the event was rubbish at least I would have discovered whether this venue was a potential work space for me.
But there was no disappointment and I’m so glad I decided to attend.
Not only was the event excellently run; there were great speakers; there was loads of interaction with us, the participants; the content was relevant and there was no “death by round-robin” or sales pitches!
I felt energised having met so many incredible women who were just like me (in terms of our passion and purpose) and encouraged that these women were all local to me and interested in meeting up again.
What I learnt from attending this event was:
Not all networking events are made equal…and they’re certainly not all bad. You just have to find the ones that have your tribe or interest you.
Do your research and listen to recommendations. If the organisers are asking you to come along then be a bit sceptical, but if someone you trust is recommending the network then it’s probably worth giving it a go.
Be selective about the events you go to. I went to this one because it was on a topic that was of interest to me and about something I wanted to find out more about. I get frustrated when I go to events which I get nothing out of.
Make the effort to network whilst at the event. Introduce yourself and find out who else is there. Unless you do this you’ll never know if they’re your kind of people. I met some amazing women who were exactly ‘my kind of people’ as well as some I already knew but was able to make a deeper connection with because of the themes of the event.
Know what you wat to get out of it. Being intentional about the event you go to will help you feel it’s been worthwhile if it meets your expectations OR help you recognise when it’s not the right network or event for you.
Don’t go with the intention of selling or finding new customers. I met women at this event who I wanted to buy from just because of their personality and the values of their business, they weren’t trying to sell me anything they were just themselves and shared their story but I connected to them and wanted to know more about their products and their business. Likewise, I had no intention of finding clients at this event but I made some good connections (just from introducing myself) that are likely to create opportunities in my business which I have been struggling to figure out for months!
Speak to the organiser(s) and find out more about the network and their other events. If you had a good time, find out what else they’re doing, how you get involved and how you could contribute to the network. I was excited to learn that I had a lot in common with the organiser and was keen to support some of her other initiatives for women entrepreneurship across Wales.
The biggest lesson for me was – sometimes we need to test out our beliefs about things. For example, are all networking events really that bad? I would never have known or challenged that belief unless I had gone to this event last week.
I wasn’t expecting it to have such a profound shift for me but I’m already looking forward to the next event I can attend and the potential new connections I’ll make along the way.
Find out more about the new framework for Supporting Entrepreneurial Women in Wales here.
Kat would love to connect with you if you run a social enterprise in Wales or are a business owner in Wales passionate about sustainability, reducing your waste and impact on the environment. Get in touch here.
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