Use Meetup.com for Low Cost Networking…The Old Fashioned Way (In Person)
Posted on February 01, 2012 by Nancy Leve, One of Thousands of Entrepreneurship Coaches on Noomii.
Web based networking opportunities via facebook, twitter, etc. are wonderful. But don't forget about in person networking to grow your client base.
One morning, fifteen years ago, I sat in my car feeling anxious about walking into a chamber of commerce breakfast for the first time. Although not an introvert, I was unaccustomed to entering a room full of strangers, many of whom knew one another.
I thought of networking as selling and thought people who ‘worked a room’ were nothing like me. My only goal that day was to survive and at least talk to someone at my table. I’ve come a long way baby.
Although it’s still not in my top ten fun things to do, I no longer feel uncomfortable at business networking events. I now enter a room full of strangers looking forward to meeting some new people. I attend with a purpose…to grow my contact base and tell folks about the internet marketing services that Virtual Fundamentals provides.
In the fifteen years since my first Chamber breakfast meeting, life experience has taught me how valuable my contact database is. I know and embrace the web based networking opportunities via facebook, twitter, blogs, etc. But I consider my electronic friends, followers and subscribers as an addition to my in-person relationships.
In the past, there were just a few types of networking events.
Joining a Chamber, a Rotary, or other membership type group whose monthly meetings were attended by small business owners in your same geographic area and where you met others by walking up and introducing yourself or sitting at the same breakfast table.Joining a networking group that met regularly where you were expected to provide referrals for the others in attendance, as they would for you. Often, membership was excluded to any other business person in the same industry (i.e. only one accountant, real estate agent, attorney, etc.)
Today, www.meetup.com provides a tremendous number of networking opportunities on a professional and/or social level. Some groups are based on a broad shared interest such as ‘business’ or ‘marketing’ while others are more narrowly targeted such as ‘entrepreneurs wearing size 8 shoes’, well not really that specific, more likely social media marketing or SEO professionals or professional photographers, etc.
Meetups are usually free or very reasonably priced.
This networking channel is wonderful for anyone who feels awkward approaching a group of strangers. Everyone there recognizes that the purpose of the get together is to meet new people. If you don’t feel comfortable joining a business networking group, consider joining a book club meetup group, an art group, kayaking group etc. It is still an opportunity to extend your contact list with new people.
There are no expensive membership fees for meetup groups and you can decide over time whether you wish to continue participating or not.
If so inclined, you can start a meetup group yourself and be the group leader. Your group could target other business owners in the same industry as you or target potential customers for your business and offer them informative sessions. As a word of caution, do not jump too quickly on this opportunity to create a meetup if you are already time challenged, don’t enjoy planning events or get disappointed when people RSVP but don’t show up. Many groups are left without a leader after the person who established the group can no longer handle the work involved.
Whatever avenue you decide to use for networking face to face (via Chambers, networking groups or meetup.com groups) make yourself get out of the office, smile, shake hands and take a break from the computer.
Just be friendly.