As a small business owner, contacts are invaluable. Finding events that will expand your network can, however, be hard if you don’t know where to look, what to look for and what to avoid. Here are ten ways to find networking events you want to attend.
1. Check online networking sites
A number of websites help find or initiate networking events. Meetup, Eventbrite and others allow you to search your area for events, find information and purchase tickets.
2. Use social media
Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn let members create events and generate invites. You can view the profiles of others planning to attend and keep in contact after the event. You can also use social media to make contacts outside of network events.
3. Join a non-networking group
Networking doesn’t need a label. A group with a common interest can expand your network without the pressure of the title. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking all your networking must have a strict business theme.
4. Start a group
If you like to run, read books, eat pancakes, drink coffee or talk philosophy, you can start your own group that's dedicated to your passion. If you work from home, having a regular group event will break up any monotony you’re facing.
5. Contact local organisations
Your local chamber or rotary club host regular meetings that provide a built-in guest list of other members of your local business community for events. Memberships may come with fees, but they can help you meet other local business people.
6. Support a cause
If you like to volunteer your time, find a non-profit organisation that needs your help. These events present the opportunity to spend time with other like-minded individuals.
7. Host an event
Invite people into your business or let other organisations use your space for their event. There is plenty of advice available on how to hold a great networking event.
8. Recognise events to avoid
Some networking events are better left unattended. A few tell-tale signs will let you know when to stay home. If they boast exclusivity or an agenda of icebreakers and activities, you might want to steer clear. Some events also charge fees but offer no rewards.
9. Balance exclusive and inclusive
Avoid a party where no one attending has similar goals, and avoid an event that leaves no opening for others to join. To grow your network, events have to welcome newcomers, lead to other events and allow new groups to form.
10. Follow up
If you’ve attended an event, follow up with those you spoke to. These contacts might even give you the scoop on the next event.
[Note, this post was first published on 18/09/2013 but we've since updated it]