Networking in Israel – Feel Good or Effective?

Especially in Jerusalem, it seems that networking OFFLINE is the new online. It is rare that a week goes by when there is not a networking event to attend. Obviously, there are regular groups that meet such as GBN and BNI, but I am referring to specific events which are put on to ‘get people together’.

Is there value in this? Yeah, of course there is…however, I personally think that there are things that are of greater value than spending around 2 hours standing around awkwardly or meeting and speaking to someone that has little to do with your current business plans.

However, let me stray slightly and come up with counter arguements:

1. But you could meet someone who will (give you big business)/(give you that big idea)/(refer you to someone)…

I’m sure that you could . But is it likely? Perhaps. Has it happened in the last 10 networking events that you have attended? If yes, then great. If not, then who are you kidding? It actually reminds me of when I was single and used to attend singles events or go on blind dates. Remember your married friends who told you that there was no harm on going and that she could be the one ?

(For more on the perils of going on lots of dates, see http://habitza.com/) We actually went on a date once, but she has forgotten – but I digress)

2. As a freelancer, it is important for me to meet people who are in a similar situation to me…

I actually agree with this in a way. I work in an office on my own and rarely meet other people. I am lucky to have a wife who is in a similar (but very different) business and we can and do brainstorm at times. However, it is doubtful to me whether meeting with a set of semi-random people who generally want to talk about their own business and have little interest in your’s is the best way to do it.

3. Sometimes I need to get out of the house…

Agreed. Majorly important. However, I prefer the cinema/restaurant/pub etc.

Alright, I realize that I am being slightly cynical. I think my point really is that there is a value to everything that you do in addition to your time. If you are just attending networking events because that is what you have been told that you should do as a business owner then you may want to think again whether that is the best use of your time. Whatever business you are in, there are ALWAYS additional things that you could be doing especially in the marketing of it.

I think that a good think about networking events is that everyone is there to network and therefore you feel less embarrassment to approach someone and to ultimately pitch them. However, if you have something genuine and useful to the person that you are pitching then there is no reason to feel that nervousness.

A great alternative to networking at all is to phone someone up.

Who is the leader in your industry?
Who can be a great connection to you to introduce you to new business?
Who is the most likely person or company to purchase your product?

You would be surprised at just how effective it is to pick up the phone and tell someone how you can help them. Ask them first what their problem/concern is and then tell them how you can help them. Reciprocity is extremely powerful (read Robert Cialdini’s book and weep) and if you offer someone, then you are majorly likely to score a hit.

My point (again?)?

Spread yourself thickly rather than thin and make sure that you spend your time wisely. Be laser targeted to the ONE person who can help you the most rather than meeting with a load of people who there may be a small chance of them helping you.

Keeping it fairly real,

Ben S

PS. Didn’t really fit in above, but definitely another post coming soon about the usefulness (or lack of) of the ‘breakfast’ networking clubs…any thoughts?

Are you a networking fan? Am I totally missing the point? Do you find networking ridiculously useful and has it made a different to your business? Please let me know by commenting below:

4 comments

  1. Sara Young says:

    Agreed.

    As a full-time mother and part time entrepreneur, I have to be very efficient with my time. So I would not go to such an event.

    But although these events are not for me, I’m sure they are useful to some people. And I bet they will post below….

  2. There are different kinds of networking events. I tend to agree that the basic “let’s get together and schmooze” events are probably a waste of time on their own. It is very hard to get a solid lead from them and most of the people that are attending are themselves not successful enough to be a good client for you, whatever field you are in. If they were successful they probably wouldn’t be there for the reasons you mention; successful people value their time and are good at using it effectively. (Think about that.)

    On the other hand, if you go to a lot of these it is a good chance to see friends (from the other meet-ups)…

    But there are other networking opportunities that might be more worthwhile. For example, industry-specific groups like JWP (Jerusalem Web Professionals: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=23403144304) have a higher probability of getting you to people that you can work with and for.

    Networking groups that meet regularly like GBN (http://www.yourgbn.com) and BNI that have a formal agenda absolutley do work for some people and some professions. There is a reason there are BNI chapters all over the world — it works (for some). Depending on your profession, how good you are at it, the dynamics of your group and how willing you are to contribute you might get quite a lot of business. I am in GBN and I have gotten numerous clients from it, some of them long-term ones. Some people do much better than I do due to their professions and some people do much worse. Try it — if it works, stay. If it doesn’t, quit. Simple as that.

    Finally, there are educational events with networking components. It is well-known that these can be extremely helpful to one’s business. One learns about a relevent topic, often getting fired up with new possibilities and new options for one’s business. And one can meet useful people during the netorking breaks, etc.

    A word to the wise here: the more you need commit in money (NOT time) to an event the more likely you will reach quality people. People who are too cheap or who “can’t afford” an expensive event will not come, so the people that do come are usually at a higher level in their business or at least their attitude.

    And if one can’t/won’t spend money on the higher-priced events then one needs to think about whether that is really the right attitude or not.

  3. Andrea says:

    Hey.

    Shimshon’s comment is so funny. So him. And so true. I walk away from some of these events hoping that many people WON’T contact me.

    Anyway, nice new blog Ben!

    My opinion, kinda, might choose to change it:

    There is an equation. I am not big on math but something like the number of times you put yourself out there, the more likely you are going to see results.

    So, while you didn’t end up marrying any of those other girls from singles events, in some cosmic way.. it brought you closer to meeting your wife.

    A better example. Real Estate agents on average need to go through 13 duds before they hit the 14th client who buys. So it would be great for them to skip to number 14, but the equation includes doing all 14.

    I think most events are not organized properly. Disclaimer is that I have never been to any GBN and never heard of BNI, but events are not very equal opportunity. I think a sharing of skills and talents “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” would be a lot cooler. Everyone has something to offer.

  4. Ben,

    Shimshon’s comment is right on. The lower priced an event is, the more people attend.. but the quality of the attendees is way lower.

    I recently did a Jerusalem seminar for 12 people, of which several became clients. In an event where there were 30 people, less of them became clients or referred clients to me.

    I am still testing price, but I have no doubt that the people that pay 30 NIS or even attend networking events for free go home grumpier then those that attend events that are better quality.

    In ESEI Networking events, (which are very different then seminars I put on BTW) I have had people travel from Tel Aviv, Ashdod, and Herzeliya, in addition to the Jerusalem- Beit Shemesh- Gush attendees.

    At the last ESEI, I actually spoke about Dr. Cialdini and Influence. People loved it!

    Issamar Ginzberg

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