Looking for Quality Networking Opportunities? Create your own!

Introduction from Alana:

Several months ago, my friend, Shawn Kinkade, Business Coach and founder of Aspire Business Development, invited me to present my book, Coffee Lunch Coffee:  A Practical Field Guide for Master Networking, to his Business Book Review group.  It was a wonderful experience and I met people that morning who a) I had not interacted with before and b) have become important members of my relationship base. 

Shawn was gracious enough to document his approach to creating the Aspire Business Book Review – intended as a way to meaningfully connect with other professionals.  You’ll find his commentary in the post that follows.  For those of you in the Kansas City area, I encourage you to check out Shawn’s upcoming Business Book Review events.  If you are out of the area or not able to attend, take a look at the great summaries Shawn posts about the monthly selections.

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Guest post from Shawn Kinkade:

Despite all of the advances in technology and online social networking, business happens because of relationships with people…and the best way to find and build those relationships is through quality networking events. Of course quality is a relative term – but since you’re the only one that really matters in this equation; let’s look at what quality means to you.

A quality networking event includes several components:

Picture by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr
  • People who can help you in your business in some capacity, either potential referral partners or potential prospective clients
  • People with some shared interests to make it easier to engage
  • A convenient location and time (for you) – it’s not very quality if you can’t make it
  • Enough people and variety to make it interesting for all

Sounds straight forward enough, but in my experience it’s pretty challenging to find events that hit most of those criteria…at least on a regular basis. In fact I found it to be challenging enough that I decided to create my own networking event.

Create Your Own Networking Event

At first glance, creating your own event sounds like a big endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. The trick is to find some kind of theme, or shared interest to build around – ideally one that really resonates with you and supports your business.

Here’s the approach that I took. As a business coach, my interests revolve around winning the game of business. What does it take to create a successful business? Strategy, hiring, finance, operations, systems, leadership, personal effectiveness, marketing, sales – all of these and more are the ingredients for a successful business, but how to narrow that down to a theme that would be intriguing to the right kind of people?

One common aspect to all the parts and pieces of business success is the wealth of great books out there that we can all learn from. According to 800CEORead.com there are 11,000 business books published each year…and I suspect that doesn’t include a lot of other self-help or biography type books that might also apply! That’s a lot of books, and I happen to know from personal experience – especially talking to my clients that most business owners are interested in a great business book, but they rarely have the time to read them.

So I came up with the idea of doing a monthly business book review. It’s a pretty simple idea – I pick out a book that I find interesting or helpful…a book that my clients should be reading. I create a summary of the most important ideas as a handout and I hold a discussion review on the book. Specifically I do it as a 90-minute breakfast event about once a month. The emphasis is on networking, discussing an interesting topic that applies to most business owners or professionals and making it a simple, fun experience.

I’ve now been doing these reviews for about a year and I’ve averaged 20+ attendees with a good mix of repeat visitors and new visitors to each session. More importantly, it’s been a networking event that I (and based on comments others) really enjoy and find to be useful.

What kind of theme would work for your business? Are you clear on who you want to hang out with? What would those folks be interested enough to sign up for?

If you were in the health industry, is there a wellness theme you could pull together? Or maybe it’s something about the future of healthcare?

If you’re in the construction industry, maybe a theme on Real Estate investment ideas…or architecture and design ideas (depends on what aspect of construction you’re into).

If you’re in a Business-to-Consumer type of business, who’s your best target market in terms of consumers and what are they interested in around your service or product? (As an example, kitchen remodelers could hold regular events on great new kitchen ideas, products or designs.)

If you’re stuck on ideas, it might be worth checking out Meetup.com and doing a search for events that others have pulled together in your area. It might spark an idea or you might find an existing group that’s a fit.

What theme would you like to meet on? Is this an idea that would work for you? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

–Shawn Kinkade, Kansas City Business Coach

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