It’s amazing how many old, backward methods can be eradicated by the Web. Months ago a friend invited me to attend a business networking chapter meeting. I knew not too many details about it, only that it was a very prestigious organization, it would help grow my roster of contacts as a budding entrepreneur, and it would be better to experience firsthand how it worked.
Despite how suspicious it sounded—MLM recruiters don’t divulge anything before the “meeting” and they flatter you—I gave my friend the benefit of the doubt. So what do you do in business networking meetings?
- Mingle. (Note: I don’t know about you but I think it’s common courtesy to introduce your guest to other people since you invited her and she took time out of her
busyschedule just to be there. Don’t leave her on her own especially since you did not brief her beforehand.)
- Have breakfast. (Note: I also think it’s common courtesy to inform her that she’s supposed to pay for the breakfast even though she’s a guest. Please don’t ambush her like that again.)
- Learn what the organization is all about.
- Formally introduce yourself by indicating your line of work and the specific type of clients you are looking for this week.
- Mention whose services you’d be interested in acquiring as well.
Pay to Enjoy Restricting Privileges
Oh, and since this was all done in an organized manner, restrictions applied.
Only one person from each professional specialty is permitted to join a chapter.
Seriously? The Middle Ages comes to mind, or maybe Kid Nation, where you only have the upper class, the merchant class, the cooks, and the laborers.
There were at least three of us who were “web designers”—a web hosting guy who happens to do web development and “web design” as well, a fine arts girl who happens to do graphic design and “web design” as well, and me.
Then it so happened my friend introduced me as a graphic designer instead. So what exactly was my “profession” inside that chapter?
How were they going to deal with the fact that three people called themselves web designers that day? More importantly, why was I even invited to that meeting knowing that rule?
Did I really have to stick to being called a graphic designer slash web designer? I’ve been damn good at writing and editing, too. So is that strike two for competing with the copywriter in the chapter? Or is that a no if I only write for blogs?
(Note: it’s disappointing to realize that clients aren’t just hiring me for web design skills, but for every other skill I’ve developed for the past 22 years, and they’ll never appreciate that. One of these days I need to list all the services I can provide. Likewise, it’s a shame if you don’t use your other skills in your real job.)
How many more cans of worms do you want me to open for you?
Doesn’t matter anyway, since I didn’t get any referrals but web hosting guy and fine arts girl did. It definitely made me feel like a niche profession that nobody understands or finds useful. To think web design is not at all niche on the Web. How much worse can it get for the real niche brick-and-mortar businesses?
We’re in the 21st century, for crying out loud! Everything overlaps. Niche feeds The Long Tail. And really backward restrictions cause brain rot.
You also had to pay an annual membership fee, the amount of which was staggering. I’d actually call it decadent, if appropriate. We’re in a third world country. I’m not paying just about a month’s salary to do what I said above… every week.
Granted, my potential clients are probably best found on the Web. But why pay to gain contacts via a business networking group?
Is it because an invite-only system supposedly guarantees quality? Someone’s thumbs-up may be another’s disappointment. And based on experience, I’ve been disappointed by the best of people. A membership fee doesn’t guarantee otherwise.
Go Network Online
Remember, you only get one person per profession within a chapter. You’re paying to get a limited amount of contacts. You can do that on the Web, completely free of restrictions.
Now the problem with doing anything online is this almost certain image of uncertainty and chaos brought about by anonymity and equality. Though Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook are not just online popularity contests, it’s a bit too tedious to gain and share business referrals on a general-purpose socializing site.
There’s always LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Xing, which look very productive. GigPark is a different spin on professional networking and focuses on the recommendations you need. This instantly reminded me of the business networking experience I’ve told you about, except that with this website, it’s free—free as in beer, free as in speech.
Since these chapter members are clearly loaded, they have the technology to get on the Web. Do they have the common sense to? Do they have the common sense, too?