Collaboration over competition - how to network successfully, in a way that aligns with your values

Whether you fear networking, have tried it before and hated it, or you love it and want to get even more from it, this blog post is for you!



As a socially shy person, I had absolutely NO idea that I would come to love networking, let alone start my own online networking group!


I've discovered that the secret is to find a group where the networking style suits you, whether you are socially shy like me, an introvert, or an extrovert, there are groups out there to suit everyone.



How to find the right networking group for you


Online networking groups differ greatly, from very formal, to relaxed,chatty and informal. Here are some examples, starting with the more corporate approach:

  • A corporate style, where there is a main speaker and eveyone has 60 seconds each to showcase their business in a short pitch, before moving on to the next person. These groups tend to rely on a direct sales approach and some of them require participants to make a certain number of referrals and recommendations per month, in order to stay in the group. This type of group suits many people who like this formal approach, which tends to keep the personal and professional very separate.

  • Small groups, where everyone takes turns to pitch, but there is a more relaxed approach, with the chance to ask questions too, to find out more.

  • Groups with mini breakout rooms, either 1-1 or in a group of 3 or 4 people, for a relaxed chat and the chance to make deeper connections. This style of group suits people who are empathetic and like to make sales organically, without a hard-sell approach and, in my own experience, it's the most effective way to get new clients.

A good way to find the right group for you (without the feeling of having to kiss all the frogs before finding your prince!) is to ask around in Facebook groups for recommendations. If you can mention what you are looking for in a group, people will suggest groups most suited to you.


Many networking groups offer a free, or reduced-price taster session, to let you decide if it's a good fit, before you subscribe.


My preference is definitely the mini breakout room approach. For me, it feels like the most natural way to network online.



The benefits of relaxed, online networking sessions, in mini-breakout rooms

  • No 'timed pitch' to rehearse, instead, there is free flowing, natural conversation, to get to know each other, who you help and how you help them

  • By building relationships, you are more likely to get clients directly, as well as getting recommendations from members of the group

  • By talking to others about your business and listening to them talking about theirs, you can learn a lot about yourself and your business, picking up tips and advice along the way

  • After a while, other members of the group may start to feel like colleagues/business buddies, people you can discuss your business ideas with, who also understand what it's like to be self-employed

  • You'll have people you can ask for recommendations from, if you are in need of a particular service or product

Online networking has boosted my self-confidence, my business knowledge and my online visibility. It's also where most of my clients come from - both directly and through recommendations.



My top tips for online networking success


  • Remember that at some point, everyone there will have had their first time at networking/in the group, so people will understand

  • Show up as yourself, it's the best way to make true connections with others who share your values

  • Keep a notebook of who you have met at networking, so you can refer back to it later if you need their services, or know of someone who does

  • Follow up after the session with people who have resonated with you, either personally or professionally, by following, liking or sharing posts, and/or commenting.

  • If you are feeling nervous, focus on the other people in the group and how you can help them, it's a great way to calm nerves

  • Have your links typed up to add to the chat if you are invited to (it's a lot easier than typing them out during the meeting)


Why I started my own Zoom networking group (Parenting Business Huddles)


My Facebook group, Parenting Business Connections, was growing rapidly and many connections and collaborations were forming. It felt like the next natural step was to create a platform where people could meet each other face-to-face online, to strengthen those connections. To be totally honest with you, the idea of setting up the tech to do this felt really scary, so I got some tech support to help me to set it up. Doing breakout rooms was new to me too. It has all been a learning curve, but it's grown into a successful subscription group. One member commented that having the Facebook group was great, but the networking group was 'the icing on the cake.'


One of the benefits of our networking group (the reason I set up the Facebook group in the first place) is that we all have working with parents in common and we already know many of each other's ideal clients. This makes conversations flow easily in the group and offers plenty of opportunities for collaboration.


We meet every Wednesday morning at 9.30am (UK time) and during term-time only, with a few catch up sessions in the summer. It's a lovely group of people, who are great at making newcomers feel immediately at home.


If you'd like to join us for a free networking session and you are not in the group yet, please join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1562655980600829 For group members, the link to join a session directly, is in the posts in the group.


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