Last month, I talked about why networking is important for your business. This month I want to outline the various networking options available in Cheshire, writes Sue France.
There are so many different networking groups in this area you could literally find yourself attending something every week day and you would barely get any work done – so take things gently.
The most sensible networker I met was a lady painter and decorator who told me that because she wore overalls, and was constantly spattered with paint, it was difficult for her to attend events and decorate all in the same day.
So now, every month, she picks a day to be her ‘networking day’; she styles her hair, dresses in a smart suit, and sets off before breakfast to a mixed business group which finishes at 9.30am.
She then has time to attend one of my Knutsford ladies’ coffee mornings before rushing to Stockport for a Chamber of Commerce lunch.
I wouldn’t be surprised if she then changed into a dressier blouse and hopped on a train into Manchester for an early evening networking session at a cool city centre bar.
I am not suggesting you rush around attending four events in one day, but there is something to be said for a dedicated ‘networking day’, leaving you free to concentrate on work the rest of the time.
You could first try a mixed business breakfast group and one ladies’ event to get a good balance.
Mixed breakfast groups are faster-paced and often have specially staged one-to-one meetings. They also usually include a sales presentation from a member.
You each do a sixty-second pitch whilst you partake of a full English breakfast. When I attended, I could never eat a thing until completing my pitch. If I was last to introduce myself, I would have a soggy, cold, congealed breakfast in front of me; whereas if I was one of the first to speak, I could thoroughly enjoy my breakfast treat.
So, sit nearest the organiser and find out which way round he goes and you won’t have any bother at all.
There are at least four types of ladies’ networking in Cheshire.
- Support groups (usually about 12 in a group) where you all inspire each other and the organiser is your mentor and chairperson. These groups are great as everyone really gets involved, helping and advising each other and firm business friendships can be formed. Some groups only take one person from each profession or business but others are all-inclusive.
- Large business lunches attract legal firms, accountancy firms and banks who often sponsor tables. You can make good connections and hear from some interesting speakers. You will get to know everyone on your table but, if you want to meet other people, you will have to make more effort to go and introduce yourself or infiltrate a group of people chatting at the reception. There are good ways of doing this and I will give you some tips next month.
- There is a mums’ group in Cheshire that meets at playbarns. This is a brilliant idea for mums with pre-school children. It is an excellent way to keep in touch with others who want to dip a toe in the water and carry on working, or who want to start their own businesses from home
- Then there is the type of ladies’ networking group I run. These are sociable, casual and relaxed coffee mornings and lunches, with business speakers and workshops. They usually take place at hotels and restaurants around Cheshire and comprise about 30 ladies. This means there are lots of people to meet but not so many as to be daunting. These groups are good for ladies who want to try new venues and take a break from work.
I once held a lunch in Liverpool and two new ladies who attended left very different comments on their feedback forms after the event.
One wrote: “I had a great time. From the moment I walked in everybody was really welcoming and I felt as if I was amongst friends, Loved hearing about everybody’s businesses too, I will be back and will join your group. Also liked the fact there were no name badges or attendance lists.”
The second lady wrote: “No one bothered with me or was interested in my business. It seemed very unfriendly and cliquey. Should have been name badges so I would know what people did. I won’t be back.”
Hard to believe these ladies were at the same event but they obviously wanted different things from their networking experience. That is why I think your networking choice is very personal to you and you need to shop around and find the perfect group for you.
Sue France set up and ran Forward Ladies Networking in Cheshire, Merseyside and Manchester city centre. Planning to retire in 2014, the Cheshire ladies who had attended her events persuaded her to continue. She still holds one networking event a month. Her group is called Sue France Creative Connecting in Cheshire. To find out more contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck and happy hunting.