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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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The definitive guide to finding the best place to network for you and your business


With so many places to network, how do you go about finding the best one? Heather Townsend provides some pointers.

Today’s trainer and networker are bombarded with choice. Unless you have had your head in the sand for the last few years, business networking is no longer just about standing around talking with strangers at a pre-determined time and place. You can literally network anytime and anywhere.

Very simply, you only need one other person to talk to be able to indulge in some face-to-face networking or an internet connection to be able to use online networking. Here is our list of ideas of where you can network:

  • Formal networking groups and business clubs.   
  • In person & virtual Mastermind groups.
  • Parent-friendly networking clubs.
  • Community-related causes.
  • Professional association events.   
  • Volunteering.
  • Drop-in events.
  • Personal social events.
  • Conferences
  • Company hosted seminars.
  • Training Courses.
  • Chance meetings.
  • Award evenings.
  • Corporate entertainment.
  • Speed Networking events.
  • Private members clubs.
  • Internet forums.
  • Twitter.
  • Social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Ecademy, 4Networking forums, etc).
  • Blogging.

As you can see, that’s a long list of ideas about where to network. I’m sure that the question you are thinking is, how do you find the right personal mix of networking groups, events, blogging, posting, connecting and tweeting to find business and career success?

"Never take someone else’s word that a networking event or group is great – they may have a different reason for attending than you."

It’s easier to take a step back, and firstly think about why you are using networking. Unfortunately most trainers I have met tend to believe that there are only two reasons to go networking – to go prospecting for new clients/suppliers or to find a new job.

In reality there are only four reasons why you choose to network as a trainer:

  1. Increasing your profile.
  2. Helping  you learn, find answers and tools to your problems.
  3. Generating referrals and meeting potential clients.
  4. Assisting you to build a community of like-minded people.

If your career or business plans require you to rapidly extend your network and visibility to your target market, then pick events and online networking tools which are designed to help increase your profile – such as chamber of commerce events, events hosted by a professional association, Twitter and blogging.

But, if you are looking to build a network which routinely provides you with referrals and introductions to the people who matter to your career or training business’s future, then seriously think about joining a referral generation group or create your own one.

Creating your own referral group is actually much easier than you think it is – how many like minded people can you think of who also want to meet the same people as you, but are providing a different product or service to you? These are the people who you want in your referral generation group.

Similarly, if you are looking to learn from your networking choose events and forums which give you access to information. Most mix and mingle type of events have guest speakers who will talk on their specialist subject. Pretty much every event hosted by a professional association has its primary aim to help educate its members.

If you are looking to build a community of like minded people, then think about where these like minded people are hanging out. Many people forget that people who work for themselves or from home regularly often have a need to get out and meet people – and often that’s the real (unstated) reason they go networking.

But, the million dollar question is (unless you are starting up your own group), how do you find the best local groups and online forums?

The best way to find potentially great local networking events is to ask around your network. Ideally you want to find a group or event where you are made to feel welcome and given plenty of opportunities to get to know people. As you need to remember, effective networking is not about passing business it’s about building up relationships with people. Never take someone else’s word that a networking event or group is great – they may have a different reason for attending than you, always visit a couple of times as a guest before committing to joining or attending regularly.

  • In much the same way, finding the right online networking sites to maintain a presence, is very similar to finding the best local networking events. Here are a couple of ideas to find the right online networking site for you:
  • Do a Google search on "online forum xxx", where xxx could be an industry, type of person or a product which you need help with or want to meet.
  • Have a look how many members are active on the site – you are looking for a minimum of 1,000 members.
  • Read the quality of the posts – is this a site which will enhance your credibility and personal brand by maintaining a regular presence?
  • See how many of your competitors are regularly contributing to discussion threads. Too many of your peers may mean that the site is saturated with your particular specialism and it may take a while to build up a meaningful level of visibility and credibility.
  • Ask questions on places like Twitter or LinkedIn to find online networking sites which other people rate.

There is no one right answer on where you should be networking, everyone is different – and the right mix of networking activities for you personally, can only be found by giving different options a whirl and being prepared to experiment. 


Heather Townsend is the author of The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking. Over the past decade, Heather has worked with more than one hundred partners, coached and trained over 1000 lawyers, accountants and other professionals at every level, within the UK's leading and most ambitious professional practices.She specializes in working with professional services firms and is the founder of The Efficiency Coach.

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Heather Townsend


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