If you’re a member of a networking group that meets on a regular basis, you’ll be very aware of the focus on keeping a steady flow of visitors coming along to the meetings. This needs to happen for a number of reasons;
- One of the reasons we network is to expand our personal contact sphere and visitors help us do this.
- New visitors always add energy to the room and will, usually, enhance the meeting.
- Most networking groups are looking to grow and some of the visitors may well decide to join.
- In a referral networking group, visitors do pass referrals – if they have a need represented in the room.
- If a member has a need represented by a visitor, that visitor may receive an opportunity to do business.
- A visitor may prove to be a great referral partner for one or more of the members – even if they don’t choose to join the group.
- Strategic alliances can also develop between members and visitors providing excellent, ongoing business opportunities for both party’s.
This is not an exclusive list and all of these things are, of course, dependent on the appropriate relationship developing but you can see the great benefits that visitors bring to a meeting.
As members, we tend to judge the visitors that come along from our own perspective but it’s easy to forget that they, too, will be making their own judgements.
They will be judging us as individuals, judging our businesses and judging the networking group that we belong to – and all this from their experience at a single meeting.
A survey was carried out a few years ago asking people what their biggest fear is. Surprisingly, the fear of dying only managed to make it to No. 3! At No.2 was the fear of entering a room full of strangers and at No.1 was the fear of public speaking.
Given that many networking groups expect everyone in attendance to deliver a short presentation about their business, the results of this survey only highlight the fact that many of us are stepping way outside of our comfort zones when we go networking. Particularly when visiting a new group for the first time.
As members, it’s really important that we’re mindful of the fact that many visitors will feel very ill at ease when they come to a meeting and we need to treat them in a way that ensures that they feel welcomed, valued and included throughout the meeting. In fact, I think we need to make sure that they get a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling about their experience.
After all, no-one joins a networking organisation, they join the people in the room. Not to mention the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, they are judging us, our businesses and the group by their experience.
The challenge with this is that members also share these very same fears and this can manifest itself in networking groups appearing to be cliquey. Members can slip into the habit of getting into small groups and talking to their fellow members – their friends – and not talking to the visitors, which can result in visitors feeling excluded and getting a bad impression.
It’s our responsibility to make sure that all members are aware of this ‘fear factor’ and are constantly paying attention to visitors, making sure that they’re not left alone or left talking to other visitors without any member in attendance. We need to actively include them in the group at all times and this is especially critical if we’re looking to grow our group.
If you’ve ever invited a visitor to your group only for them not to turn up on the day, don’t judge them too harshly. It may just be that having to step outside of their comfort zone, in this way, got the better of them. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Always remember that many people find networking a pretty scary experience so, if you treat them accordingly, you’ll find that the early stages in new relationships will develop much more quickly, that visitors to your networking group will be far more likely to join and you’ll get visitors recommending your group to their contacts.