Business Networking Swindon – What to look for in a business networking group

Friendly networking in SwindonThere are many organisations which offer business networking in Swindon and the surrounding area. There is also a wide choice of business networking formats; from business networking breakfast meetings, mid morning coffee sessions, lunch-time events to early evening business networking sessions.

Furthermore you can join business networking groups that meet weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
So anyone looking for a business networking group in Swindon will not be short of choice.
Business Village Swindon meets every Thursday at the Campanile Hotel, Delta Business Park, Great Western Way, Swindon, Wiltshire SN57XG from 7-30am – 9-00am.

But how do you decide which is the right business networking group in Swindon for you and your business?

First of all you have to ask yourself “why do I want to join a business networking group in the first place?”

Before going anywhere you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve with a business networking group. People attend business networking groups and events for a host of different reasons.

Business Village believe that most people attend business networking sessions to for one or more of these four main reasons;

1) To gain referrals and business opportunities. As any business owner or salesperson will tell you a good referral represents a very strong sales opportunity. Business Village by the way maintains an emphasis on helping its members to develop and exchange business referrals.

2) To benefit from the experience and support of other like minded people. Building a business is very challenging – so being able to avoid pitfalls and discussing business issues with a trusted group of people who have valuable experience and knowledge about the challenges you are facing can be of great benefit. This is something that Business Village members always feel strongly about – working to help other members overcome issues and challenges in their businesses.

3) For personal development – working hard on developing your own business should not mean that you stop developing yourself. Personal skills development and learning is important for us all. Personal development is a key reason why people join business networking groups. Of course, you must make sure that the networking group you are joining offers you this opportunity.
Business Village organises business focussed educational and developmental presentations for business people on a regular basis hosting at least one presentation per month if not more.

4) Finally do not discount good old social contact as a reason for joining a business networking group.
Running your own business can be a lonely game – especially if you have previously been employed in a larger organisation and are used to being surrounded by work colleagues. Business networking can provide that all important element of social contact.

So once you have clarified what it is you want to get from your business networking group it’s then a case of finding a group that works for you.

As already mentioned there are a plethora of business networking groups in and around Swindon all meeting at different days, times and locations.

If you are an early riser then you can look at the breakfast groups like Business Village.

There are several business networking breakfast groups operating in Swindon. You have the national “brands” like BRX, 4Networks, BNI. These meetings all follow a similar tried and tested business networking pattern. For sure they have all tried to put their own spin on the format to differentiate themselves from each other so you pay your money and take your choice. And pay your money is the operative word as these groups will all charge a membership fee of several hundred pounds per annum and there will be a charge for the breakfast meeting itself – typically around £10 a visit.

Swindon Business VillageOperating alongside the national brands you will find local groups like Business Village.

Business Village gives its members the option of meeting weekly and charges no significant membership or subscription cost¹

The only cost with Business Village is the charge to cover breakfast currently at £10.

The big advantage with business networking breakfast meetings is that you can do some good networking and enjoy a kick start to the day with a hearty breakfast and still be back at your desk by about 9-30am.

There are more groups set up to operate in this breakfast time slot so clearly there is a good demand for business networking in Swindon at breakfast time.

If early mornings are not your forte you do have other choices, but there may be less of them.
Lunchtime business networking events are run by organisations like NRG which is probably the most well know business networking organisation operating in this time slot.

Evening business networking does not seem to be so popular for some reason, if you look at what is being offered. Ecademy is a national organisation that operates evening business networking meetings, but a search in Google did not reveal many others offering outright business networking in Swindon during the evening. However, you do have a wider choice of networking with a more social aspect through traditional groups and associations like the Round Table and Rotary Clubs.

So once you have clear in your mind what you want from a networking group and when you want to do it, it’s then a case of testing out the groups to see if they meet your needs. Many will allow you a couple of introductory visits before they start applying pressure to pay up and join.

Help and advice for networkers in SwindonBusiness Village in Swindon is different though! Because there is no joining fee you can come along whenever you wish and you will only pay for your breakfast £10 (at the time of writing).

Think also about the frequency of the meetings. There may be a business networking group that meets monthly – which seems fair enough – but be aware that building trusted relationships – which is what good business networking is all about – will take significantly longer if you are only meeting people once a month rather than once a week.

It then comes down to the people who make up the group. What businesses do they represent? Will they be connected to the sort of people and businesses that you want to get referrals into? If you are selling a business service and the networking group you are thinking of joining is full of people who sell to consumers only then you are less likely to get that many referrals – better to look for a group made up of people who also sell to other businesses. Business Village is predominantly made up of people running or representing businesses focussed on selling to the business community.

When you attend the group try and get a feel for where the group is going – is it dynamic, well led, is there a feeling of enthusiasm and purpose in the room, is the group well structured and very importantly is there laughter and a sense of genuine relaxed enjoyment – yes even at 7-30 in the morning!

It is important that you get a positive and welcoming feeling from the group. Many groups have lost their way, are not driving forward with a clear purpose any longer and are becoming or have become stale. It won’t be long before members start disappearing and the group goes into decline. You don’t want to discover that after paying a hefty subscription to join.

So try and check out the membership numbers – are new people joining on a regular basis – if so it’s likely to be a vibrant and valuable group. Whereas if you are the only potential new member to visit in the last few months beware!

Finally – and this is a very important question to ask – do you like the people sitting round the table? If you are hauling yourself out of bed to go and sit with a bunch of people you don’t really get on with, then the chances are you won’t stick at it for very long. If however you like and respect and enjoy the company of people in your chosen group then you will be much more inclined to keep attending and you are likely to get from it much more than just referrals.

So now it’s up to you – get out and try a few groups and see which ones can offer you what you need and that you are comfortable with. There is a lot of choice around Business networking in Swindon – make the right choice for you and you and your business will benefit significantly.

See you at breakfast!

This short introduction to finding the right business networking group in Swindon, was written by Steve Dye, Former Chairman of Business Village (Swindon)

 

¹ Please note: There will be an admin fee of £25 payable on registration, and an annual fee of £20 for following years. This will cover administration costs and the general promotion of BV to the benefit of all members.

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