How Networking Groups are Like Dating

Like a personal relationship, networking groups should be an easy conversation between people and leave you wanting to get together again to learn more. I adore this topic: networking not dating! I got that out of my system long ago. Back in 2012,I wrote an article for the American Society of Association Executives on ‘How CAE Study Groups are Like Dating‘ and after reading it again this weekend realized the same information is accurate for networking groups so I’ve updated it. 

Sweaty palms, nervous excitement, heart racing just a little. I wonder what it will be like. Will we hit it off? Are we going to get together again?

Do any of these sound familiar? For me, this is how I felt before my first date with my now husband. However, last year I had the same feelings before going on my first “date” with a local networking group.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Dating (noun)

  • the activity of going out regularly with somebody as a social or romantic partner.(Bing)
  • the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public. (Wikipedia)

Networking (noun)

  •  a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.(dictionary)

Setting Up The Date

Typically, when dating we tend to look for similarities in our partners. Knowing that you have commonalities tends to make the conversation flow a bit easier. The same is true for choosing your best fit for a networking group. You’ve already made the step in which group you want to join or visit, and so you and the other group members have that in common, not to mention the background in being a business owner. We choose partners that we connect with and ones that we learn from.

So, who makes the first move to initiate the “date”?

For me, our group formed by one woman deciding that our area needed a networking group and this was before the big boom of all the other groups. I met her at a local event and she invited me to attend. Knowing that I was moving to the area I felt it would be a good way to meet others and showcase my business to a new crowd. So, I like to think that I was asked on that first date! But it’s easy to make that first move even if you aren’t already involved in a local group. You can search networking groups via Facebook, use the Meet Up app, ask your friends who are small business owners if they belong and tag along, find a local BNI or contact your local chamber of commerce. Remember, these days you don’t have to belong to one that meets in person, there are many virtual groups as well, just make sure the group you join meets your needs.

First Date

Prior to my first date (at a local restaurant on a weeknight) I made sure I had my business cards ready, my ’30 second pitch’ as to who I am and what I do and made sure there was nothing stuck between my teeth! Each month there was a new topic and I happened to be coming in on the one about preparing for tax season.

Sounds boring; dates should be fun, right? For us we made sure to keep it simple and fun. Each one of the members contributed to the discussion, and this was a wonderful way to learn from others. The first date should be easy conversation between the people, not dominated by just one person, and it leave you wanting to get together again.

Wanting More

All good relationships take work to keep them going strong, and you could tell this group was committed. We were mindful of each other’s jobs and personal commitments. We still have ‘dates’ monthly and continue the learning both personally and professionally. We’ve grown in size and education. Dating should be fun; it’s a time to figure out what you like and dislike and what you are looking for in a lifelong partner. Finding the perfect networking fit is very similar. Just remember you’re not alone in the journey and you’ll do great.

Breaking Up

Is it ok to break up with your networking group if you’re not happy? YES! Here’s the thing: networking groups mean netWORKing. You have to work at it to make it worthwhile. If you just expect to go in and get business that’s a one-sided relationship. So, if you are a part of a group that doesn’t seem to be a good fit, take a time out and look around at what else is available. If you put the work into the relationship odds are that you’ll reap the benefits.

We want to hear about your first dates. Tell us your best first date experience with a networking group or maybe it wasn’t such a great experience.

To view the original article via ASAE please CLICK HERE.

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2 Comments

  1. Great analogy! I was also at that meeting. I didn’t know what to expect for my first networking ‘date’ but everyone was super friendly. It’s great being in groups of people who are in the business of meeting new people!

  2. So true! It’s so important for people to recognize the need to WORK within a networking group and that developing a business relationship with the members needs to be mutual. Not all groups are a great fit for every person, and vice versa. Great analogy, The Next Steps!

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