Founded 11 years ago and based on a franchise model WIBN is clearly doing something right and having been a member for around 18 months I can attest to the fact that it is not only exceptionally helpful to business, but also to professional development. But, what makes this women’s networking group different from the myriad of others that exist up and down the country, I hear you ask?
Well…firstly WIBN takes itself seriously, not too seriously mind you, but it is an opportunity to network with a group of inspiring, informed and authentic female professionals. With a mix of solopreneurs (such as myself) as well as women from large corporates, it offers a fantastic opportunity to really step outside of your comfort zone and mix with a range of people from across the spectrum. Not only that, but with 25 groups in London alone and over a hundred groups in the UK and Ireland with plans to expand globally over the next couple of years – so you never know your next holiday in Spain could well include a spot of networking. Because WIBN encourages its members to sub and visit other groups, meaning (as long as you are not locked out of a group – which guarantees you some serious bang for your buck) you can network with even more professionals and help to connect your fellow WIBNers.
It also includes a number of other benefits including discounts with travel company Maiden Voyage, half price on the big red panic button – a safety app aimed at supporting women as well as personal development webinars.
Now, for those of you who find the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and having to make conversations inordinately daunting, such as myself, WIBN really does offer the perfect antidote. Firstly, the groups are relatively small – no bigger than around 20 and secondly everyone is extremely friendly. And, then of course there is the format of the event that really does lend itself to building long-term, dare I say it…friendships.
Each meeting runs, more or less, in the same way – with some informal networking followed by a more formal sit down round a table. Firstly each person has the opportunity to pass round their business cards as well as any accompanying material. This is followed by 60 seconds to speak about your business and what you are looking for. At each meeting you will be given a “what’s lead sheet” which will list each person, the business they’re representing as well as their contact details – meaning you can easily write down any notes and also easily follow the meeting. Each meeting also has a 10 minute speaker slot which offers one member to provide more information about their business followed by a “let’s do business round” where you can plan a 1-2-1, give a referral or offer a testimonial. In fact, what originally drew me to WIBN was this final opportunity which is fantastically low pressure. Instead it offers people a real opportunity to further enhance connections and work to build better relationships. Of course, as with any networking group that same old cliché is true – you get what you give – so it is worth having 1-2-1s after the group, to learn more about your fellow members and gain a better understanding of their business.
It is also a pretty helpful group for those of you with kids as it meets at the rather more dignified hour of 12pm and finishes at around 2pm, so slightly more conducive to a work-life balance than early morning or evening networking’s – plus you also get a pretty tasty lunch in my experience.
I really would recommend trying out one of the groups.
For some more information on WIBN please feel free to check out the website www.wibn.co.uk.