The building up or maintaining of informal relationships, especially with those people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities.
Such a high proportion of business nowadays is generated by this new phenomenon called Networking.
Once upon a yesteryear it was called Taking The Clients Out For A Drink, or I'm Having A Little Party Up In Town, Why Don't You Bring Frank Along.
But everyone decided those sort of terms were far too much of a mouthful, and one day a bright spark imagined attracting new business in a fishing styley and the new much more contemporary term Networking was born. It has swiftly become a noun in common use and one which means increasingly more to UK business each passing month.
The fact that you are reading thebestof Croydon blog is in itself a small sign that you're receptive to a bit of networking, as after all that's what this site is all about. Far from restricting this to a digital format however, thebestof Croydon also extends contact with its 'family' by holding regular networking events, or helping to organise them for others. Our very own Maud Alleyne is an expert in this area, and putting people together is something she excels at.
There is a right and a wrong way to organising a networking event however, and you have to have a nose for it.
I once heard about an entirely separate company's ideas for their networking events, and quite frankly it seemed doomed from the start. In the first instance, they spectacularly booked an unsuitable venue, wanted to provide inappropriate food (ie difficult to eat standing up chatting), invited guests at short notice vastly reducing the uptake, and scrimped too much on the promotional material they wanted to hand out - they were in danger of looking unprofessional, disorganised, and cheap, and in the end cancelled the event. Continuing would have damaged their business far more than not running the event in the first place.
Things to think about for the perfect networking event:
Think about who you want to attract to the event - can they benefit your business? Can they benefit each other's business? It's not all about using your guests for your own gain: people are far more likely to appreciate your efforts if your event puts useful people in touch with other useful people, not just yourself.
Don't do the hard sell. Networking is about just that - building relationships. It's not an opportunity to hard sell your product, your guests won't appreciate it. Make information available to them by all means, but don't make it the keynote of the event.
Create a hook. People will want to come to an event they will learn something from, or find interesting. Consider keynote speakers of general interest, or a professional gimmick to make the event one people are curious about. Some networking events thrive on games to break the ice, but choose these carefully. Professional networking organisers know some great ones that bring even the shyest guests out of their shells without anyone cringing, so it pays to get the right advice.
What time of day. Do your research on when your guests are more likely to be free. Breakfast events are common, late afternoon ones might be an attractive reason to leave work early, and for evening ones make it clear what refreshments are available (ie not a full-on meal so they know they'll need to eat later or before they come)
Catering: choose appropriate refreshments, maybe something that's easy to eat/drink on the move around a room. If you're considering a sit down meal, that's a different animal and an event in itself, needs longer than an hour and a half, and might not be appealing to those guests who want to drop in and out. Whatever you decide to do, it's an idea to make it clear on invitation what you're providing.
Whatever you decide to do, it's important to keep the networkers interested, motivated, and welcome. Keep it simple, keep it polished, keep it professional, and you'll be a great advert for yourself. Get it wrong, and your company will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
If in doubt, call in the professionals...
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Katrina Monroe is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.