The levels of networking group participation
Image by Sigurd Decroos
I was chatting with a business owner to whom I had delivered a welcome bag when she first joined the local Chamber of Commerce. I knew that for some people, the Chamber just wasn't a good fit, so I wasn't horribly shocked. Still, I always like to know what happened. So, I asked her for more details about her experiences, specifically which events she was attending.
"Oh, I don't have time to do that!"
She basically expected to sign up and suddenly have her phone ring off the hook with business opportunities. I could have told her that she would be disappointed with that plan. Assuming that it's even the right one for your goals, the results you get from being a part of a group are directly related to the level of participation you maintain.
Let's look at what you can expect as a...
- Visitor. You show up once or twice to events for the group. If you are a skilled networker, you're simply checking it out to see if it is a good fit. If you aren't skilled, you just show up those two times and then declare that networking is a complete waste of time because you didn't get any business. Expected Results: None. You've made no visible commitment to the group and you won't be remembered or missed much past the last time you attend an event.
- Attendee. You are a regular at the group's events and have been for at least a six months to a year. The other people who show up regularly know you by name and probably know what you do. They comment if you miss an event. This is a dangerous place to be because it feels like you are devoting a lot of time to the group, but no one in the group really knows you very well, so your returns on the investment of time and money will still be somewhat slim.
- Member. At this point you are not only showing up to most of the events, but you are connecting with other members outside the events -- one-to-ones. You may also at this point have officially joined the group, though this is not sufficient to making the group pay off. This is the first level of participation where you can start to expect real results. Now people not only know you on sight, but many see you as a close, personal connection.
- Participant. Beyond making good connections (and definitely still including that behavior), at the "Participant" level, you are a visible supporter of the group. You take extra time and effort (and sometimes even money) to serve your fellow members. Your activities might include serving on a committee, writing for the newsletter, or acting as a greeter at the events. At any rate the best connected people in this organization see you as someone to help in any way they can.
- Organizer. At the top of the participation pyramid is the role of "Organizer". At this level you are not only connecting deeply with the other members and serving in a visible capacity, but you have also made a long-term commitment to devoting your time and effort to this organization's success. The dangers at this level are that you only have time for one or maybe two groups where you serve at this level. You also might have a tendency to focus so much on the group that you forget to ask for help from those members who might be willing to do so.
The more time and energy you are willing to devote to the group, the more likely the group is to reward you. Understand this and you are far less likely at the end of the year to feel like you've wasted your time in an organization which has given you nothing in return.
Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to www.thereluctantnetworker.com.