Where can I find some good places to network?

Q & A by C.J. HaydenThe most important question to ask yourself when looking for places to network is, “where do my clients hang out?” The second most important question is, “where do my potential referral sources hang out?”

Generic networking venues like events sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce aren’t the best spots for many entrepreneurs, especially when you find many other professionals in your category who have arrived there before you.

Look for niche groups that serve the specific industry or profession you most want to attract or affinity groups of people with whom you have something in common. I’ve found much better networking in specialized groups like “Human Resource Systems Professionals,” “Women in Technology,” and “International Association of Business Communicators” then I have in networking groups aimed at more general audiences.

That said, the more general networking groups can be worthwhile if your ideal clients or referral partners match the profile of people those groups attract. For example, in my city, Chamber of Commerce events attract large numbers of independent business professionals: consultants, accountants, attorneys, etc. So if that is your target market, the Chamber and other mixed-profession networking groups could make sense.

Now, how do you find these groups? You can look up national and international organizations in the Thomson Gale Encyclopedia of Associations, but I suggest starting closer to home. Locating networking groups that meet in your area can often be accomplished more easily using local resources. Here are some places to look:

  • Online event calendars — Do a keyword search for your city, e.g. “Boston events” or try Craigslist, Meetup, or Ryze
  • Yellow Pages — Look under “Associations” or “Professional Organizations”
  • Regional and local newspapers — Look for a “Business Calendar,” “Community Calendar,” or “Entertainment Guide” in the paper or their online edition
  • Chamber of Commerce — Check out the events they sponsor or ask for a list of local business and community organizations
  • Business Times or Business Journal for your metro area
  • Local trade publications aimed at your market niche or area of interest
  • Flyers distributed at other networking events
  • Bulletin boards at training schools that serve the niche you’re looking for
  • Asking local people in the niche you are seeking where they go to network

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