Personal networking can be a boon and bane for a business. Every community has a variety of organizations to network in from professional development clubs such as the Public Relations Society of America to Chambers of Commerce, from philanthropic organizations such as Soroptimists and Kiwanis, to structured networking groups such as eWomenNetwork or speaker training.
Know what you want to get from the experience: new friends, business prospect, referral prospect, professional speakers, motivation, a combination of all or something else. Any and all of that can bring value.
Research who attends if you are looking for clients or referrals and make sure your audience will be there or the people there will connect to your audience. Otherwise, don’t go. If you see the same cast of characters over and over, conceivably you might not be getting the clients you need. The caveat to that is where your prospects are in being ready to need your services. You need to network to make sure you talk to people you don’t know at every event; learn about others and their needs don’t just try to hand of business cards. If you have a referral or a reason to connect, do. But don’t just try to hand off your cards. Less likely to be successful.
Determine if sponsorship or table hosting or booths are an option and of value to you. Different groups have different structures–look for the opportunities for extra exposure that you can afford. Crunch the numbers, this can be an expensive proposition.
Schedule your time wisely! You may not need to go to every event every month. You have a business to run. Perhaps you schedule two or three events a month and go to different groups every quarter. Some groups may merit monthly because of the return on your investment, whether time, prospects, clients, professional development. Only you can determine what that value is.
Just remember, know why you go, what you expect to elicit from the experience, assess whether you are or are not getting that, choose the group wisely and schedule your time. You’ll be more effective with that limited time and appreciate the experience and investment more.