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Business Networking. Love it or hate it?

A group of women at awards night at Work Wise Women, Grimsby

Hi, my name’s Liz and I’m a serial networker.

I admit it. I like networking! Maybe it’s because I spend my days shut in a small box talking to myself that I feel the need to get out and meet people, but I do believe that networking is good for business. A figure that is often banded about is that it takes 6-8 ‘touches’ before someone will buy from you. People need to get to know you and trust you before they’ll do business with you – and meeting people in person provides a great opportunity for that to happen.

I belong to a few different networking groups and I’m always open to going along as a guest to other groups too. It’s impossible (not to mention expensive) to belong to everything, but most groups like to have visitors, even if they’re not going to join, because it provides new networking opportunities for their existing members.

So, which networking groups do I belong to, and what do I get out of them? Below are a few of the groups I’ve been to and my thoughts about them…

4 Networking (also known as 4N) is a national network, which is what attracted me to it. One you are a member you can attend any 4N meeting anywhere in the country, and they have breakfast, lunch and evening meetings to try and suit everyone. There are a number of groups local to me (9 or 10 within a hour’s drive), and they all have the same format, so you know what to expect. There is time for informal networking, the 40 seconds round during the meal where everyone gets a chance to explain who they are and what they do, a 4 Sight (talk) from a member, and three ten minute one to one business appointments with other people in the room. They also always have a ‘bumf’ table for business cards, leaflets etc., and every business is also welcome to display a roller banner.

I’ve given 4 Sight talks at a number of 4N meetings now about how I came to be a voiceover artist. People are always fascinated to hear the story and I always get lots of questions. Being the speaker definitely makes me more memorable, and more people ask for my card when I’ve given a talk.

I’ve worked with quite a few people through 4N now, notably Naomi at Value Added Video who sends a lot of work my way, and I’ve also found suppliers for my business too – my accountant Dan at D&K Accounting for example, and Justin at Choose Purple who designed my website.

A very different kind of network is the NLBN (North Lincolnshire Business Network). This is run by my local council and is really a way for them to disseminate useful information to local businesses. They usually give a presentation about what’s going on in the region, and then there can be one or two other speakers from the business community talking about an aspect of their business. The networking happens over a buffet supper and it’s all very relaxed. Being a member of this group has put me on a lot of people’s radars locally. Even if they have no immediate use for a voiceover artist, they know I exist and how to find me.

The Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce is different again. While 4N tends to be frequented by smaller businesses, a lot of larger organisations belong to the Chamber. Their speed networking sessions are hard work on the voice, but a good way to meet a lot of people in a short space of time, and I have gained some good clients this way. They also organise a large business exhibition once a year which I always go along to, and that is another good place to meet lots of local companies.

The Business Hive in Grimsby host very informal networking meetings once a month. The format of these is just turn up, grab a drink and chat! You have to be quite confident and outgoing to get the best out of this sort of meeting, because you need to not be afraid of breaking in to other people’s conversations. The meetings are generally very busy so it’s possible to meet lots of people in a short space of time. It’s also possible to be cornered by someone and not be able to get away….I’m not currently a member though I’ve been as a guest, and the Hive Live event is a brilliant annual business exhibition, where I’ve made some very good contacts.

I belong to two ladies only groups, SWIISH (Supporting Women in Industry Surrounding the Humber) and Work Wise Women. Both groups are very good at promoting and supporting things that I’m doing. A number of members have come to see productions that I’ve been for example, and they’ll always share any PR that my business gets. I was honoured to be presented with an award from Work Wise Women in 2018 for my services to the media industry.

With the founders of WWW and another award winner

 As well as finding clients and suppliers I have also made a lot of friends through networking. Whenever I go to a networking group, or any other sort of meeting, there is nearly always someone there I know. At the end of the day humans are social beings and we enjoy getting together Рif you can do a little business at the same time, then why not!