Posted this on the small business forum – thought it would be good here, too:
Going to my monthly Toastmasters meeting tonight, and it got me thinking about networking / groups / clubs / and the like.
I’m not really a fan of networking groups where the point is to swap cards / leads / etc. I find them somewhat phony and dishonest – the only reason people are there is to “get business”.
In my experience with them, I have found that there’s no continuity – if business gets too busy or too slow, the person will stop attending. Thus, I find these groups filled with short-term people. New salespeople hustling for leads; the “here today, gone tomorrow” bodyshop; the “new to this” graphic designer, etc. I’ve belonged to a few of these in my lifetime (back when some of my sales jobs MADE me go), and I’ve never met a five-year vet. I don’t like the vibe in the room, or the look in everyone’s eyes. Reminds me of a new car salesman on the salesfloor… that “I need biz” look.
I know some of you belong to these groups – I don’t mean to disrespect what anyone else does – this is just my opinion of them (and is ultimately worth every cent you paid for it).
This isn’t to say I am against networking – far from it, really. I just think it needs to be done as a secondary thing. Now that I call the shots, if I’m going to join a group, it’s because I find the group useful in an educational sense, or a social sense. If business comes out of it, fine; if it doesn’t, that’s fine too, as that’s not the main reason I am there. I really, truly feel that you cannot be a true business success until you have this attitude.
I look at the Chamber this way – I like hanging out with other successful businesspeople. Once in a great while, I’ll attend a mixer. Not because I want leads, but because I like shooting “business bull” over a scotch. I do realize people swap cards at Chamber mixers, but I think most can agree it’s not a hotbed for leads. It’s WAY more “meeting people” than “getting leads”.
The Lions and Rotary clubs come to mind, too. The big players belong to these clubs. They don’t go there to look for business – that’s almost beneath them. Again, if business comes from it, fine. If not, that’s fine too.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m going to Toastmasters tonight. Been a member for about 2 years. Out of all the clubs / groups I have joined, I have found Toastmasters to be the most useful. I was always a willing speaker, and was decent enough, but this club has really brought it to another level. From doing the “off the cuff” tabletopics to doing prepared speeches and evaluations, it forces you to communicate in an effective manner. In a very supportive, friendly environment.
I have a hard time believing that any businessperson would hurt themselves by joining Toastmasters. But again, it’s not a place to look for leads, etc. But I think it can help your business better than almost any other group.
Any other Toastmasters here?