IS TRADITIONAL NETWORKING DEAD?
For several years I have been gathering data on the networking process and how it affects business owners. I did this through attending and joining many different networking groups and eventually starting my own club.
During this investigation period, I have gathered some fascinating data and glaring realizations. I would like to share these insights with you in hopes of answering the question “Is traditional networking dead?” But before we take its vital signs, what is traditional networking?
The basic concept is when a group of business owners gather in person to share who they are and what services that they offer. This is done in the hopes of generating business leads, partners and ideas. Traditional networking must allow for certain factors to be met:
1. Attendees must be allowed to speak on who they are and what they do.
2. Space and venue must be provided for participants to share their message.
3. It must facilitate personal and professional growth activities.
I have found that most groups provide these opportunities. They vary in their structure and activities but for the most part the three main requirements are always met.
Now that we know what it is let’s get to the dirt.
The first interesting fact that I have stumbled upon is that there is no one networking group for all people. I have heard some groups claim, “Their group is the only one that gets results.” If you pull aside two people at any given meeting some will love it and some will want to poke their eyes out with a stick. Another fact of networking is that you are mixing together a group of diverse people, positions and mindsets in the attempt of creating opportunities. This conglomeration of humanity has some interesting results:
1. Diversity can create interest but sometimes the people don’t mix. Group success depends heavily on who is in attendance.
2. There are people who genuinely care about providing a valuable service and building a business based on integrity; and there are those who’s main mantra it “What’s in it for me?”
3. There are a variety of networking styles. Some people will want to sit in a corner hoping for Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility, others will take people hostage with their never ending sales pitch and some people will hit that Goldie Locks spot where they get it just right.
BUT, the number one most interesting fact that I have found is that love it or hate it most business owners still believe that networking is an invaluable asset to building their businesses.
Thump, thump, do I hear a pulse? Wait there is always another side of another coin. I have used the term “Traditional Networking” does that mean that there is an alternative lurking out there waiting to take over?
Well I’ll be darned…yes there is. It is sneaky and subtle and it is causing controversy to run amok. Yes it is social and online networking.
Social networking is your basic Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, etc. They provide a place for people to have discussions and promote themselves. Interesting…they hold space and allow it’s attendees to promote themselves but do they facilitate personal and professional development activities? In fact they do. A leader of a group can produce the activities in very unique and creative ways. In many ways what is possible in person is possible online. If social networking is not your cup of tea you can still gain benefits by participating in the online meeting method. This can be accomplished through webinar software, Facebook chats or Google + hangouts. With these technologies you are still able to communicate and engage in real time with real people. In some meetings everyone can voice communicate or face chat and in others you can type your messages to weigh in.
Some people are excited and ready to accept this new method, some people were born ready (they are the under 25 years olds) and yet some hold fast to that rigid thought of “There is only the traditional way.”
Like it or not online networking is taking a shot for the championship.
So what is the verdict? Traditional vs. Online Networking – who is to be our victor and who shall die in defeat? At this point it seems as though the score is set to tie.
But wait; there are still two more factors that we have yet to investigate that might turn the tables one way or another.
We are emotional creatures and when meeting face to face in significantly ups the trust factor. The downside is you have to dress up, drive to the venue and pay your entrance fee so that the organizer can pay for the venue and refreshments.
With online networking…YOU DON’T EVEN NEED TO GET DRESSED! It could be called “Naked Networking.” You don’t have to dress, you don’t have to drive and you don’t have to pay!
Well folks, I think that the official verdict is this…..
Traditional networking is not dead. There truly is nothing that can compare to the face-to-face meetings of like-minded people. However, it is no longer a stand-alone activity and if treated as such you will lose out on an enormous amount of opportunities.
As the organizer of a traditional networking group I have experienced a number of successes and failures within this framework. Networking groups pop up and shut down all of the time. If they do not change and grow they will die.
When my networking group, The Success Club, first started there was the usual novelty and excitement that follows any new venture. Every month we had hoards of people attending. On the surface The Success Club looked like an immediate success. However there was one significant problem. We did not grow to success by discerning who we wanted to have in our group and therefore we left the door open for everyone and anyone attend. Most people were passionate business owners with a message to share, but who also knew the value in building solid relationships. However, others were there to see what they could get and to push their message on to as many people as possible without having to waste time with relationship nonsense. Unfortunately this drove some great people away. But some wonderful people did stay. It is for those who are seriously passionate about committing to their business and investing in themselves that we will continue to develop the Success Club and provide a platform for business opportunities. It is with great excitement that I am announcing to you our growth plans. We are now going to be the only local networking group who will be offering a combination of online and live events. The beauty is that when people are participating in our online events they have the benefit of connecting with local business owners and with business owners from out of town areas. We will not be charging for the online component so for those that find finances, travel time and venue to pose challenges, this is a way to over come these difficulties. As for the live events, they too must change and they will be undergoing their new look, feel and structure within the next couple of weeks. The main difference being is that we no longer feel that hoards of unqualified people are the makings of a great Success Club. It has been said that you are the sum total of the five people that you hang around with the most and with that philosophy in mind we will move forward.