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9 Easy Ways To Choose the Right Networking Group For You

When it comes to growing your business and personal brand, networking is a large piece of the puzzle. Your time is precious (we are ALL busy!) so it’s important that you get involved in groups that are the right fit for you. There’s nothing worse than wasting your time and money by joining a group that clearly isn’t going to help you achieve your professional goals.

Take some time to investigate different groups to make sure you choose the right one(s) to invest your resources (time, money and expertise). Here are a few things to consider:

Meet the Staff, Board or Leadership: Visit the office and meet the staff if it’s a Chamber of Commerce or professional organization OR contact the leadership and meet with the board if it’s a volunteer organization like a Rotary Club.

Attend More than One Event Before Joining: Go to two events so you truly get a feel for the group (the first event could be a fluke – whether it was great or disappointing). You’ll be able to tell a lot about the group by the way they interact with you and each other.

Talk to Members Within the Group: Ask members how long they’ve been involved, what they’ve gotten out of the group, would they recommend that you join the group, etc.

Ask People in the Community if They Have an Opinion About the Group or Organization: Utilize the connections you already have by picking their brains. They may already be a member of the group or have past experiences with the group. Take it a step further by asking your friends and connections on Social Media if they have any advice/feedback they can offer.

What’s the Value?: Ask yourself what value you think the group or organization can bring to you and your business. Compare benefits and what each group has to offer. Price may factor into this as well. For example: One group may have an all-inclusive price, while another group may charge a membership fee along with fees for all of the benefits you plan on taking advantage of. $5, $10 and $20 can really add up after a while!

What are the costs above and beyond the membership fee?:  I already mentioned this under What’s the Value? but wanted to touch upon it one more time because added extras can really hit your bottom line.

What is the Personality/Culture of the Group?: Does the culture match your personality and style? Some groups can be buttoned up while others seem to always have fun no matter what they do! A great way to determine a group or organization’s culture is to check them out on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Does it Offer the Structure or Flexibility that You are Looking For?: You may be looking for something regimented with a lot of accountability or perhaps you’d rather a self-paced group that you can slowly dip your toes into. Find out what the expectations are within the group or organization and carefully assess if these expectations fall within your perimeters.

Think About Ways You Can Contribute and Get Involved on a Deeper Level: A great way to truly get a lot out of a group or organization is to get involved by joining a committee, volunteering at events and functions or becoming a board member. This requires a deeper level of commitment (more time) but it can truly be the most rewarding professional experience you’ll have. You can also offer to use your area of expertise to improve the group and help their achieve their mission.

A couple of things to keep in mind…

  • You must be willing to invest the time it takes to reap the benefits of being involved in a business group or organization. You won’t get much out of joining by just being a name on a membership list. Commit, do the time and you will likely see results.
  • You can belong to more than one group at a time. Many businesses belong to their local chamber of commerce, BNI, Rotary, etc. Don’t join so many groups that you get to the point that you can no longer effectively be a member, but definitely try out more than one.
  • Different groups work for different people (that’s why it’s so important to investigate groups and organizations before joining).

Ultimately, you’re the only person who can determine what is the best fit for you. Once you DO pick a group to join, give it your all and truly commit to taking advantage of all that the group or organization has to offer you. In return, make an effort to provide value by offering your expertise, positive feedback or referrals to the group or organization.

Happy Networking!

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