Marketing Your Networking Group

 


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Several months ago I went on the cruise from hell. It wasn’t advertised as a cruise from hell, but instead as an opportunity to check out a networking club, to have fun, to see what this particular group had to offer . . . but make no mistake, it was the cruise from hell.

A THREE HOUR CRUISE . . .

A client of mine insisted I go on this evening cruise as her guest. She’d been talking about this group, and about how I should come to a meeting and sign up, about how much it would benefit me. She was insistent, and not easily dissuaded. The cruise was put together by the local chapter, so involved quite a few separate clubs.

I acquiesced. I was free that night, and didn’t think it could hurt. I was wrong.

My client had another guest also, so the three of us embarked on our adventure with the expectation that this would be a good business networking event, and should also be, as promised, fun. We were assured there would be food available, as well as the no-host bar.

And yes, a cruise around the Sound is always fun. But on a winter’s night, the scenery is limited to lights in the distance, so we were hoping there would be more going on inside than outside. And there was. Each club was clustered together in its little pocket of togetherness. On the dance floor, off the dance floor, these were people who knew each other well and didn’t seem to be very interested in meeting anyone new.

We signed in at a “guest register, " but the purpose of this was never made clear. After that, no one seemed to care that we were guests, that we were there to find out what this group could offer us, and afterwards, no one ever followed up with the information we’d left behind. Perhaps it was an exercise to make us feel welcome? If so, it didn’t work.

The no-host bar was quite a success. The food . . . not so much. It was brought by the members, and apparently there was a contest, though I never did figure out the purpose or the results. Some of it was abysmal, some of it was good, and there wasn’t nearly enough of it to feed a boatload of drinking people. (Or drunken people, for that matter. ) Yes, many people seemed to be having a very good time. These appeared to be the people in the group, who were of the idea that this cruise was an excuse to party with their own group of friends. That’s nice for them. Other guests that I noticed were, much as we were, standing around looking for an emergency exit. Even my client, a member of a club, was not particularly enjoying herself. This could be because she was saddled with two unknown guests, or because her club wasn’t as much “FUN" as some of the other clubs.

This event seemed to work just fine as a gathering for club members from the local chapter to get together and party, as a way to solidify bonds already formed, as a way to relax in a non-business environment, but not as a means to introduce prospective new members to the club. I am not particularly motivated to attend any meetings after the cruise from hell.

Suggestions for making an event such as this work on both fronts:

  • Define what you want to accomplish before planning the event. A social event for your own members will have quite a different structure from an event that’s to attract new members. If you’re combining the two, don’t assume potential new members will be drawn in by your obvious ability to have fun with each other . . . we have our own groups of friends who meet that need just fine. We’re looking for business opportunities.

  • Show prospective new members what they can gain from joining your organization. How does your organization differ from others?

  • Take an interest in prospective members, keeping in mind this does encompass more than saying “hello" when they show up. If you’ve asked them to provide contact info, follow up with them after the event.

  • If alcohol is available, ensure there’s enough food for everyone. In fact, even if there’s no alcohol at your event, make sure there’s enough food available. Give us something to remember that was positive, even if it was just the great appetizers.

  • Remember that most people are not innately extroverts, able to mix right in with any crowd they walk into.

    Defining your mission in advance and planning around what prospective members might want to experience, rather than planning a good time for your members, will improve the success of your networking event, and boost your club’s membership.

    Monique Young relies on networking extensively, and considers it the most effective form of advertising for her business. She can be reached at http://www.youngbusinesssolutions.com

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