Now more than ever the average person in business whether self employed or an employee…is networking.

Ten years ago when I first launched my business network RSViP, there were a handful of large organisations offering various networking solutions, all of which offered the same kind of format- heavily structured, pitch focused and ever so slightly stuffy.

This was 100% my inspiration for stepping outside of the box and finding another, more enjoyable solution for networking – why not  introduce a more social element to the current networking format, to offer a relaxed and less contrived way to make new connections and build new relationships with other business folk.

It was a challenge in the beginning to educate the masses as to what I was trying to achieve, being as it was merely a light bulb moment in my head initially, but eventually the concept caught on more and more.

Over the years, I have seen new networks come and go and more so than ever before, we see a huge growth in networks popping up across the East Midlands. My inbox is full of invitations to network at lawyers firms, banks, bars and even bakeries – all offering a different styles and formats.

But how do you know which are worth your time?The short answer- Research.

With a lot of things it’s a case of ‘suck it and see’- ‘try before you buy’ and all that, but with network events you can do your research in advance- check reviews, ask others if they have attended and what they thought, even Google…

We at RSViP offer a free taster visit for first time guests- always look for those, but equally for us at the other side of things running the events, if someone isn’t willing to pay a fee to attend subsequent events or join your network and spends all of their time seeking out the freebies across the city, then they are not the clientele you necessarily want within your network.

If they are not willing to spend to come to your network event, are they going to spend with you for your service?

You have to speculate to accumulate and in order to mix in the right circles in business, so choosing the right networks for you is essential and it will cost maybe not a lot, but prepare to factor it into your marketing budget.

Many networks won’t be for you for whatever reason. It may be the format doesn’t suit you, or that the types of businesses there are not your market, or they come across as too amateur and disorganised, so be sure that you heavily consider not filling your diary for the month ahead with a selection of any old events just because you were invited, as it really isn’t a numbers game.

Be strategic, be clever, be the tortoise not the hare and make the effort to forge healthy business relationships over a period of time.

It isn’t about how many business cards you can collect over the working week and after all, time is money- in particular for smaller businesses who will notice a half day out of the office away from a productive day working both ‘on’ and ‘in’ their business.

Remember too, you are a representation of your brand and your business services- so wouldn’t you naturally want to be seen at the right places with the right people who also mirror this?

My advice- yes get out there and network – just be strategic about it.

Okay I run a successful business network, but I will always tell people to go and try a few and then come back to us or vice versa- nine times out ten we see them again at some point and if we don’t then we wish all the best  with their networking journey.