As a business that has only been going for 2 years, we understand the importance of relationships, and how big a role networking can play in generating those new relationships. Since starting, we’ve been out and tried a lot of various networking groups so we thought it might be useful to share information on some of the ones we’ve experienced.

There are a lot of other networks out there we have not tried so we apologise to anyone we’ve not included. What we’re providing here is just an opinion on some of them.

We’ve embedded as many useful links into this article for you as we can – if it’s written in pink, click on it and it SHOULD take you to the relevant webpage.

Fleet 4 Business

A small networking group based – as the name suggests – in Fleet. In non-COVID times they meet at North Hants Golf Club on a Thursday morning. This group acts as a peer support group as much as networking. The atmosphere is professional but with a laid-back approach.

The format of meetings is an opening chat over coffee and bacon rolls, followed by a 10 minute presentation by one member of the group giving an insight into their area of expertise. This is then followed by a quick 60 seconds each by everyone, giving an update on what they’ve been up to over the previous week. There are also ‘clinics’ as and when needed to help members overcome any obstacles they may be encountering in their business.

Membership is limited to one person per industry.

We’ve very much enjoyed being part of this, offering our video production services, and feel the key benefits are the atmosphere (friendly and welcoming) and the peer support that is always available (not just during meetings).

Network My Club

This group of networking clubs are all based around sporting venues. They started from Brighton & Hove Football Club and have now expanded to run clubs based around Portsmouth and Reading football clubs, as well as The Ageas Bowl and The Oval cricket grounds and Twickenham rugby stadium.

When the meetings used to be in-person, they were always very well put together with a great volume of attendees, engaging guest speakers – and always great food! These guys have really adapted their offering (probably better than any other networking group I’ve experienced) during COVID restrictions and now run all their events online on the Remo platform. On Remo there are still keynote presentations or Q+A’s, as well as virtual networking tables, which switch around every 10 minutes.

Business sizes taking part vary enormously and cover almost all industry sectors. The atmosphere is fun and welcoming and the team behind the events are very supportive, approachable and experienced.

Hampshire Chamber of Commerce

Pre-COVID, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce used to run a frequent calendar of networking events all over the county. They would also work with neighbouring Chambers to host joint events, enabling cross-border networking.

The format of events has always ranged from tea and cake, to speed networking, and sometimes venue-based events over lunch – or even wine-tasting!

Since going online, the events don’t seem to be as frequent or varied and are based on Zoom, but still get good attendance. We’re looking forward to getting back to these once social distancing restrictions are relaxed a little as they enable us to visit venues and locations across the county that we might not otherwise get to!

ONLE Networking

The atmosphere and welcoming attitude of all members is what really struck me about ONLE. They started out on the south coast of Hampshire but have not only now spread across the whole county, but also in to neighbouring counties, and even as far afield as Newcastle-Upon-Tyne as well now!

Their members cover all sectors with no restriction on membership from the same sectors either across the whole group, or at individual venues. Collaboration is very much encouraged and we’ve met some great businesses in the same industry as us, like Robin Creative Media and Pulse8 through this group. Business sizes of members tend to be on the smaller side (5 or less) but there are several exceptions

The format of the meetings on Zoom is that there will always be an informative presentation from one of the group founders, followed by a few ‘breakout rooms’ where you get to know another member very quickly. These work really well to help you get a taste of other people’s businesses.

Fleet Netwalking

SUCH a friendly and welcoming group, run by the founders of  Hartwood Health and Wynne Creative.  They used to be based around the idea of meeting at a local café for breakfast once a month, with a presentation from an invited expert followed by a walk in the local countryside for 45 minutes. This was always a VERY pleasant way to start the day.

Since COVID these have now gone on to Zoom (minus the breakfast and the walk) but the welcoming atmosphere still remains, as do the informative presentations.

Business sizes attending are generally small (under 5 people) but they are well promoted, well presented and generally well organised.  I really enjoy attending them and have met some delightful local people through them. I’m looking forward to the breakfasts and the walks coming back though!

LinkedIn Local

This is a series of events, organised independently and locally, but under the banner of LinkedIn. (Full disclosure – we are part of a group that founded and run LinkedIn Local Hart). The idea is ‘getting to know the people behind the profiles’ and in our experience, they are really great way to meet people in an informal setting, but with a business purpose.  There is often a very ‘non-salesy’ atmosphere and all the events we have been to have been staged in a pub. Usually a combination of some kind of informative presentations and then open stand-up networking.

Obviously a lot of the ‘in-person’ events have now gone online (although we very deliberately halted our LinkedIn Local Hart events as were a bit slow off the mark in pivoting, by which time the online networking space had become fairly crowded. We aim to get back to it just as soon as we can though!

Others

Here are a few namechecks for others – some of which we’ve been to, and some of which we haven’t.

Ribbons Network

BNI (Various local Chapters such as Hook High Flyers)

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

Business Biscotti

Case Studies

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