Professional Networking Groups - Experiences Please


#1

Morning all - I am after people’s thoughts on all the different ‘Business Networking’ groups out there and your experiences of them. Particularly BNI, 4Networking, FSB - are you a member, have they been beneficial?? Just trying to work out if they are worth the investment of time and money?? Thank you - all comments welcomed. x


#2

For VAs who offer services that all businesses need, they can work well (bookkeeping and call answerers do well from them…). You also really need staff because the timings of some of these meetings are ridiculous and you’ll be on the floor with tiredness by 4pm… And a lot have a rule that you MUST send someone or risk getting blocked out. VAs do tend to get sucked into running their chapters - I would be careful about taking on any organising roles, because whilst it’s a great way of meeting people, it can also take over your whole life.

I’m a big fan of FSB, but it really varies across the regions as to what’s on offer - it’s worth popping along to a few meetings to get a flavour. FSB aren’t anywhere near as militant as some of the others, it’s more pop along whenever you can make it.


#3

I have tried various BNI groups and it is just not for me. I have found some to be very formal and others totally disorganised but I don’t like the pressure they put you under for referrals and in fact in some groups it was very apparent that people were giving fake referrals just for the sake of saying they had something.
I have however found a couple of local networking groups that have worked really well for me and since they went online they have become more widely spread with members now being not only from all over the UK but we even get some european visitors.
I think when it comes to networking its a case of trying some groups out and then sticking with the ones you feel comfortable with and where your ideal clients tend to hang out


#4

Thanks both - I am going to try a few before I decide thanks


#5

I’ve not tried BNI so I probably shouldn’t be too critical, however I have heard quite a few negative reports on them. I’ve tried a few different groups and FSB has been the stand out for me, as Caroline says, there’s no pressure to attend every single event and I’ve always found them to be a really welcoming and supportive group with a variety of different “sectors” involved. I’ve made some good connections from them - in fact I’ve just come off the Women in Enterprise session this morning and made a new contact. They regularly have key speakers too - so always something new to learn too.


#6

I have been a FSB member since I started my business and have always found the FSB networking groups extremely useful and would recommend them. 4N Online is another networking group I have been a member of they have various groups depending upon different business interests etc. A very supportive atmosphere from both of the above networking groups.


#7

Funnily enough I attended a BNI meeting on Tuesday at 6.30am. It was very formal but covered lots of disciplines. I got my 60 seconds of fame and heard from others. Was a big focus on referrals and how much every one was putting into the pot - I think across the network it’s quite competitive. It’s also £600 a year and you have to attend weekly or if you miss too many meetings you can be asked to leave. It just wasn’t for me as I am a VA because I need that flexibility in my life - especially around my children so mornings are not always easy. I’ve looked into FSB as well - more reasonable at £177 a year. I’m told that BNI will give you business but the fit just isn’t right for me at the moment. Hope that helps.


#8

Hello

I know it’s not one you’ve asked about but I’m part of The Athena Network and I love it. It is a female-only networking group. It has been invaluable for my business but also personally. Although all the groups are location-based, they also have a Virtual Club and obviously, all meetings are online at the moment and are usually at lunch-time.
x


#9

Thanks all - your views are really great - and I will check out The Athena Network, and also my local FSB group- once you start to look at this - there are so many networks out there.

I have attended 2 BNI meetings now in my local chapter… my local group seems lovely - but they are still finding their feet and only have 12 members - I just cannot commit to 6:30am meetings on a Friday. Plus it is expensive.

Many thanks
Have a great weekend
Bec


#10

Hi @virtualsatsuma1,
I have attended a couple of 4Networking meetings and I have to say that I found them lovely.
As far as I understood you can attend single events or subscribe for a monthly membership. I met interesting people and even connected quickly with a few of them. I liked the vibe. I don’t know the other groups you mentioned, but I do suggest trying at least 1 event and see how you feel about it.
This is my feedback
Have a great weekend,
Antonella


#11

I attended a couple last week. One was a traditional meeting, with the “pitch” to join. It felt uncomfortable and I do not intend to go back. We had the 30 second pitch, but as everyone knows each other, it’s not really of any use. The next one was amazing. It’s the F Factor, I found it on Facebook. It’s Free, and they really made use of the Zoom breakout rooms for us to get to know each other. I can’t imagine much networking is done in the traditional sense - the speaker told us all about her scouting troops and ended up singing rude scoutmaster songs. It is v rude, no holds barred but was great fun and I will definitely go back.


#12

Thank you - I feel a blog - Top 10 ‘free/pay per visit’ networking groups - I think this would be invaluable to new VA’s as some groups cost ALOT - and do not always deliver… And the feedback I am getting is that the free/pay per meet groups are definitely beneficial. Cool thank you.


#13

Networking can be great for business. You really do have to work at it though - its a long term commitment.
I tried BNI a couple of times but its not for me, mainly due to the military feel and the pressure to have to bring more people join, not to mention the cost. Having said that, I know that it has been really beneficial for some VAs.
Try and find local networks with like-minded business owners that share your values and have a similar outlook to your business.
I’ve just enrolled in the FSB and am finding the webinars really relevant and enlightening. Although its a national federation, there are so many groups within it that you are bound to find one near you.
All the best with your networking!


#15

Hi,

I went to a couple of actual BNI meetings before everything went virtual, it was not for me at all. I don’t like the rigidity, the ‘you must’ attitude and also, the fact that it’s weekly just didn’t fit for me. It definitely suits some people and there are those who love it and get lots of work from it, so don’t dismiss it without trying it out, particularly if you can go for free for a couple of times to see whether you like it or not.

I would like to recommend BoB Club and also (if you’re in the areas covered) Sterling Networks. Both are paid for but there’s no pressure, they are both of the same attitude that no referral is better than 1 rubbish referral. Referrals are encouraged of course, as are the 121s. While it’s all online, I’d try a few different groups out and see what suits you and what doesn’t.


#16

Hi, I have seen the other responses but I personally have got a lot out of being in BNI. My chapter has over forty businesses in it and it is very structured. They are a great bunch who gave me some invaluable advice when I launched my business in December 2020. 80% of my business is via BNI. I make the time to do the 121s with other members as the more we know about each other the easier it is to do referrals and gain work for each other. Our meetings are once a week on zoom at 7am but we are usually on from 6.30am. Always finished by 8.30 ish so time for a coffee and prepare for the day. We also have power teams where a group of members who work with similar clients ie Marketing power team is a videographer, graphics company, printer , social media expert, myself and a Web designer /host, we work together with our clients offering each others services. It works really well for me.


#17

Hi, usually these meetings will have a ‘guest spot’ so you can go along & try it for free - and exchange cards with others there. A couple of times I was paid to attend on behalf of another business as they were unable to make it to the meeting - so this could be a point to mention in your allotted time as I expect everyone there might need a substitute at some point :slight_smile: In my experience I found BNI a bit ‘Americanised’ and not my thing, although the members were nice enough. They are very results-driven and expect you to bring a set number of new leads each week for others in your group and expect you to attend without fail every week (usually at about 7am). Membership is expensive too. It suits some people but not others. There are usually other free meetings and networks and if not, you could consider starting your own? Any kind of networking, whether formal or informal can reap benefits. Good luck :slight_smile:


#18

It does vary a lot by area though - to a certain extent all those groups are only as good as the people who go to them and that varies by area. FSB often has a “shopkeepers who talk about chewing gum and CCTV” complaint against it, but actually ours is very much a wide variety of businesses. Some BNIs are really aggressive about referrals, others are a bit more relaxed, so it depends a lot of what is local to you.


#19

I can totally see how doing it on zoom makes the whole thing a lot more manageable! Those early starts are such a killer for me personally!


#20

Since I started this thread, I have changed my accountant - and over the weekend she created a Facebook Group for all her clients - so we can support each other. I suggested a Zoom meet - which we will set-up soon. So this is fantastic for me - and free networking.

I have been to one of my local BNI groups - they are lovely, but the timings just do not work for me - so I have been invited to another BNI group locally who meet later. I will take them up on this opportunity, see what the group are like then decide.

Still lots of free networking groups to attend too.


#21

I’ve been to several since setting up.

I’ve done a few BNIs as guests - great exposure and some leads/contacts but their sessions are very formal and expensive as a member.

I’ve done a couple of Buzz sessions which are more interesting but because they can have up to 60 people attend one session it is SOOOOOOO long so I duck out after an hour.

I’m since a host for a local networking thing called LATL (love all things local) for Tring chapter, it’s only £99 membership for the year and you can join whichever if your nearest chapter (area), but then also get coverage across the National LATL group…