Networking is king

networking groups for business


By Julian Smith

Last week, Brisbane was inundated with accountants, bookkeepers, developers and MYOB staff, as our annual Partner Connection conference rode into town. Over a three day event, we had partners from all corners of the country (and even some Kiwi cousins), join us in a celebration of what’s to come for the year ahead and, more importantly, network.

Glancing around the convention at the 700-odd professionals as introductions were made and friendships renewed, it reminded me of the one downside of the rise of the online revolution. The loss of face-to-face interaction. We’re getting better at tweeting and worse at networking.

Personally, I network at every opportunity (and then some!). I never miss the chance to connect with another professional, and some of my most noteworthy ventures have been born out of a simple introduction and business card exchange over canapés and house wine. I could spend all day spouting hundreds of reasons why you should suit up and head out, but here’s my top three that I hope inspire you to get out and mingle.

Re-energize and reinvigorate.  No matter how much you love your work, every once in awhile it just gets you down, or you hit a rough patch where you struggle to find your mojo.  But the thing about enthusiasm is that it is infectious.  It’s impossible to be in a room with someone who truly has a passion for what they do, and not feel that little tingle of excitement brewing. We’ve literally lost count of the number of Partner Connection attendees who have fed back that they’re so excited about what’s to come, and that they left the event with a renewed passion and zeal for their trade.

People you meet networking just ‘get it’. As a small business owner, you probably share your gripes, problems and frustrations with your friends and family, right? And while they can sympathize and pour you a glass of wine at the end of the day, they can never truly understand what it’s like to be in your shoes (unless, of course, they are!).  For me, there’s nothing like the bond of finding a true comrade, someone who deals with the same sorts of clients, encounters the same roadblocks and understands your lingo. You can bounce off each other, find out how they handle similar situations, and share experiences, all without having to explain the finer details. When things get rough, it’s always encouraging to know that there are others out there who have weathered, and survived, the storm.

Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity.  I think I’m yet to attend an event that hasn’t given rise to a joint venture. At the Telstra Business Awards recently, two finalists joined skills to create a socially responsible project that’s providing a much needed revamp to the workspaces of not-for-profit organizations around Melbourne. We’re already seeing some of our Partner Connection attendees pairing up to create blogs and run webinar sessions. The opportunities that can arise from collaborating with other great minds and skill sets can even give birth to innovative new businesses. (In fact, many of this year’s Telstra Business Award winners grew their company from a great idea over a few drinks.) Don’t miss the chance to explore a new avenue, or get on board with a new endeavor. At the very least, you’re promoting your business out to a few more people which, no matter how successful the project may be, is always a plus.

As a business owner, do you network? Or are you one of the many that fear having to ‘work the room’? Have great opportunities or side projects arisen as a result of a networking event you attended?

    • Added by Sharon Freeman

      Twitter works well if your Twitter accounts are topic specific, however the time and comittment to do this well can be exhaustive. I see great business twitter accounts let down by a. Including too much off topic information. Tweets, such as: Oh! Man did any one watch True Blood last night? and, b. major ‘cool’ typo’s and grammar fails, this doesn’t work for me, it just makes the brand lack credibility. What may be cool for a young, hip creative is not the same as what will work for a sturdy, stable accounting brand. I believe there is a line between great communication with your audience and weakening your brand. It is however, a fine line. For me, Twitter is integral to how well my blog performs and as part of my overall branding and relationship building. As far as networking goes it is a great adjunct to face to face networking. I keep up my Facebook in this process purely to keep this different audience in the loop. I feel Google+ may change things on this front.

    • Added by Julian Smith

      Dear Sharon

      Thanks for stopping and sharing your great advice. I agree 100% – I’m not really interested in what anyone else had for breakfast – so don’t tell me on Twitter! I think the best use of Twitter for business (at least initially) is listening to conversation streams that are relevant to your business using keyword searches. I find Tweetdeck ideal for this.

      Cheers Julian

    • Added by Catherine

      I’m pretty bad at networking: as someone who lives on Twitter for my job I’m much more comfortable behind my screen than I am standing in front of someone! But this is where the world of social media has had the opposite effect for me – I find now that I am a little less terrified of networking and on many occasions have gone out of my way to meet people for coffee or seek them out at events because I now have one small piece of information with which to break the ice – their Twitter name or the memory of some online conversation or blog post they made. Perhaps this is not true networking because even though these people are strangers, you still kind of know them. Really interesting discussion, and I’ve certainly met some great people in my work – both customers and peers and even joined some groups all because of being online. Thanks for posting!

    • Added by Julian Smith

      Hi Catherine – welcome! It’s amazing isn’t it, how much easier it is to be confident in 140 characters, than say the first 140 words of a conversation! Perhaps it’s because short, sharp tweets are like text messages, you have to be casual and abbreviate to be able to communicate a message – and somehow it seems friendlier.

    • Added by Julian A Waters

      I attend a 2-3 networking events almost every week. LinkedIn and twitter make it possible to get a lot more out of those few hours by continuing to discover more about the people I’ve met.

      In reverse, I’ve discovered these events and been able to arrive with background knowledge of attendees via online networks.

      I doubt there has been any reduction in in-person networking alongside the rise of online-social, and it sure is a whole lot easier to maintain a large network than it used to be.

    • Added by Julian Smith

      Hey Julian – firstly, great name!

      You make an awesome point here, LinkedIn in particular is an essential tool in my networking resource kit.

      Wow… 2-3 networking events a week – hardcore! With all that experience do you have any great tips to share with our readers on how to break the ice when you first walk into a room full of folks you don’t know?


    • Added by Julian Waters

      Julian, that’s always hard! The only thing I can say is that it gets easier: If you’re committed to building a contact network, you have to endure the awkward ‘cold intro’.

      Looking through rsvp’s for events might help, and through linkedin you can find mutual connections that help break the ice.

      The two things everybody can do to be better at networking:

      1: Intro yourself simply and clearly: Who you are and what you do.

      2: Have an ‘open circle’ when networking: If you want to have an exclusive conversation, get a business card and make another time.

      Obviously you have to be interested in hearing what about people are into & capable of intelligent conversation, but get these right and you’ll be away!

    • Added by Julian Smith

      Hey Julian – awesome advice, thanks for sharing!