A collection of my thoughts are below:
In the olden days….
In years gone by (yes I am older than I look!), networking used to be going to a networking group, shaking hands & pressing business cards into everyone’s hands like they were going out of fashion. And yes, sadly, there are still people out there who only do that (and then grumble that a particular group isn’t very ‘good’).
Over that last 5 years or so (esp. since the recession) there has been much more emphasis on getting to know and ‘trusting’ business acquaintances and so the emphasis for networking has changed, many offer much more ‘support’ based meetings, mastermind sessions, 1-2-1 sessions etc.
As a result of that and the old ‘I can do it different/better’ mentality, there are now a fairly overwhelming number of groups, both here in Shropshire and nationally, to choose from.
My take on Shropshire networking is that there are now too many groups which are a variation on a theme. I have seen a fair number struggle more recently to get good numbers and as social a county as Shropshire is, I can’t help feeling some will naturally fall by the wayside as a result (plus see my points on social media below – I think that it will play a key role in which groups survive).
Networking and Jelly….
I also think the plethora of networking in Shropshire lead partly to the fast growth of Shropshire Jelly events (and no this is not a trumpet blowing exercise just my observations) – suddenly you had the antithesis of networking available, a relaxed working environment where you still get to meet business people but you get work done – great in our time-starved economy – and you get to ask about someone’s business without being pitched to.
That’s not to say for a second I’m not in favour of networking, I absolutely am and still consider it to be one of the key ways to develop a business support network.
The social media effect…
We can’t ignore the impact of social media/online networking on how/when we network. I’ll illustrate my point – the only networking group in Shropshire fully (and successfully) utilising social media and e-marketing (imho) is Network With Style (bad luck guys, it’s women only!).
A year ago 4 or 5 of us were on Twitter, now nearly 3/4 of the 80 or so-strong group are – and because many of them keep in touch with each other in-between meetings on twitter, the buzz in the room is unlike any other group I go to by a country mile.
Due to the organisers consistently using e-newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube etc to communicate with their members, you feel a continual buzz and don’t want to miss out. Plenty of business gets done at each meeting along with a very healthy dose of support too. Other groups would do well to watch and learn; times are always a changing and you need to jump on board!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Networking nowadays, be it in Shropshire, your county or UK as a whole – do you think it could become a thing of the past one day or will it just evolve into something new?