Many networking groups are starting to return to what we call “face to face” which is as it says on the tin – networking with others around the room on a face to face basis.
This got me thinking, about what people expect when it comes to networking. Most people when they think of face-to-face meetings, they think it’s all about the food. My son will tell everyone that I talk for a living, while my husband tells others that I eat lunch for a living! So, let’s get things straight.

Networking is not about the food.

Networking is very much about building relationships and providing a platform for others to do that. Food might be thrown in, whether it be a big breakfast, a bacon butty, a delightful three course lunch, nibbles and snacks, or a wine tasting. However, the sausage sandwich or gluten-free roll, shouldn’t be the reason you are attending a business event!

So, why are you attending that networking meeting? Of course, it’s about making new connections, with a hope of gaining some sales. Ultimately, promoting and boosting your business further. It also has other advantages, in the fact that you are in and around other people whether both face to face or online.

This then got me thinking even further!

What else do we associate with other services when we are expecting something in return? Take photography for example – now everyone has a camera, at the tip of their fingers with their camera phone, or with the latest digital SLR. Gone are the days when you used to develop photographs! So why would we employ a photographer? Well, it’s not just to take a picture of us, because we could do that ourselves, it’s about the experience, and expertise they bring to the table. Whether it be about showing our business in a particular light, creating headshots which capture us in our natural state, or business branding shoots that depict what we do and how we serve our customers. On the other side, a photographer will capture a fantastic family celebration or moment for you to cherish for years to come that your camera phone just will not live up to. It’s not just about the physical activity, it’s more about the experience and the overall delivery of the service.

One of my members recently said “you’re not paying for the service, you’re paying for the 15+ years’ experience”, and this really resonated with me.

So, when out networking, think to yourself it’s not about the food, it’s about the connections and the experience that is being offered to me! Make the most of being in the room, and think about who you want to connect with, and really think about the message you want to portray, and make the most of that experience and opportunity to help grow your business.

The visitors or members that don’t query what lunch or drink options there are available when they would be attending my face to face meetings, are often the best networkers! This is because they are thinking about what networking can provide to their business, rather than their tastebuds.

After such a long time inside, we are so used to being at home that going out to the office or another event may actually be a much bigger element to your day and didn’t realise how much more time it can take.

We need to think about the travel, digging out that office or workwear, find those business cards down the back of the printer, dust off the nice handbag or backpack, so ask yourself if you are turning up to an event and wondering why they didn’t provide a vanilla decaf macchiato, perhaps you are not in the right place! That time and effort you and everyone in the room have put in to coming to this event should be reflected in your experience at the event, not in your expectation of what the venue and organiser have provided on the refreshments and food front. You will get so much from networking if you step back, plan your presentation and practice your business chat for the informal networking part, I promise!