Where and why should I network?
Networking groups are not just a great way to promote your business; they can also help you to find suppliers, business partners and even potential employees. There are several networking groups in Berkshire, which are detailed below, many of which are free of charge or available to attend for a low cost. If you work in a specific industry or profession, you might consider joining a membership body that puts on networking events, or attending award ceremonies or professional training events. Now, thanks to social media, it is also possible to network online, for example in LinkedIn groups dedicated to your industry.
The Growth Hub also stages regular free networking events – check our events page here to see what is coming up.
What different types of networking groups are there?
Local Casual Contact Networks
These allow many people from various overlapping professions to network. These groups usually meet monthly and often hold mixers where everyone mingles informally. They can help you develop a word-of-mouth-based business because they enable you to meet hundreds of other business people. Examples of local casual networking groups are:
Local Strong Contact Networks
Strong contact networks are groups that meet weekly for the primary purpose of exchanging referrals. They often restrict membership to only one person per profession or specialty and tend to be more structured in their meeting formats than casual contact networks. Here are a couple of examples:
Local Community Service Clubs
Community service clubs give you an opportunity to put something back into the community where you do business while making valuable contacts and receiving good PR to boot. Good examples of these groups are Rotary, Inner Wheel and Round Table.
Professional Membership Associations
Professional associations have existed for many years. Association members tend to be from one specific type of industry, such as banking, architecture, personnel, accounting or health. The primary purpose of a professional association is to exchange information and ideas. Here are some examples of professional associations:
- (IOD) Institute of Directors
- Federation of Small Businesses
- Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Other UK Professional Bodies
Women's Business Organisations
Women's business organisations have been instrumental in shaping the nature of contemporary networking organisations. Here are some examples of women’s business organisations:
Which groups should you join?
The key is to diversify your activities. One type of business organisation won't serve all your needs. Depending on your time, consciously select a well-rounded mix of organisations, with no two of the same type. If you have associates, partners or employees, consider their participation when deciding which groups each of you may attend. A list of other local networking groups can be found by going to the Networking in Berkshire website here.