There are a lot of networking events in Northampton. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners and everything in between if you want them. If you’re not careful, networking can be all you do and with a limited budget and hours in the day, it’s hard to know which networking sessions are best. Find the events that suit you and prioritise which you attend!
Kerry has been to a fair few and having met quite a few start up businesses recently, we’ve been asked a few times about which are best. It can be daunting, especially as a start up business. There’s so much choice and the one you don’t attend (feels like it) could be the one that’ll make you a millionaire Rodney!
So here’s Kerry’s insight into some of what’s floating around. Bear in mind: whether you get new business is down to your networking style, how much effort you put in, follow up appointments etc. as much as the event itself so experiences may differ.
Why do you network?
If you don’t know what you’re hoping to achieve, how can you prioritise which session you attend and make sure that your time and money goes on the best event? You may have a different motive but usually, people and businesses network to:
A – Increase their sales
B – Increase their contacts
C – Find suppliers
And if you’re anything like us
D- To get out into the real world every now and then and have some fun!
In order to keep things fair we’re looking at a few of the sessions that we’ve attended. You get the same info for each e.g. cost, when, where.
The food/drink provided at networking events may not be important for some people but it is for our Kerry so we’ll tell you about that too!
When 07:00 – 09:00 every other Thursday
Where Holiday Inn, Bedford Road
Cost £12 including breakfast. You can attend two sessions before you decide whether to sign up which will mean a joining and membership fee.
Benefits Social media training provided, links in to your marketing strategy, great choice for breakfast, access to around 20 networking groups from London working up the M1 if you become a member and are happy to travel, online networking (Google Hangouts), tutorials.
Drawbacks There are limited numbers that attend the Northampton event. We haven’t been to the other sessions so can’t comment on them but the Northampton group is relatively new but we gave up a while ago. The most expensive networking we’ve been to (but worth it for the breakfast). Early start.
When 08:00-10:00 Friday, monthly next meeting 7th March (usually first Friday of month
Where Brampton Heath
Cost £10 including breakfast. No joining or membership fees
Benefits Informal and fun. Known as the ‘Chatty one’. Sheila runs this as not for profit. Breakfast is nice with choice of bacon/sausage bap, beans on toast. As they say, diva diet requirements are catered for. More like meeting up with a bunch of friends than networking; supportive environment. Lovely in summer as the room used overlooks the golf course. Peaceful start to the day. Usually 10 – 15 attendees. You’re not tied in with membership fees and can see if it’s for you.
Drawbacks I can’t think of any really. There isn’t any training offered as with 24/7.
Who says that networking can’t be fun? Drinks@Dusk
When Pops up on demand! Ad hoc. 08:00-20:00.
Where Frank’s Hamburger House, Wellingborough Road.
Cost £10 including a delicious buffet of Frank’s food and first drink. No joining or membership fees.
Benefits Another ran by the lovely Sheila. It’s a friendly, relaxed environment and self-proclaimed ‘foodie one’. The platters of food keep coming and are just scrummy (not the most professional adjective but it is what it is!). Good mix of businesses. Once again very supportive and informal. A great introduction to networking and opportunity to practise your elevator pitch if you want. If not, just enjoy the food and company! About 15 attendees. You’re not tied in with membership fees and can see if it’s for you.
Drawbacks If you don’t like chilled or informal, this probably isn’t for you. We like to think of it as an opportunity to catch up with colleagues, especially if you’re a small business like us and want to meet others in a similar position.
When 08:00-10:00 Fortnightly, usually third Tuesday
Cost £10 including breakfast. No joining or membership fees
Benefits If you’ve heard of Beckworth’s, you don’t really need us to say any more. Nice food and drink. It’s ‘the classy one’ – third run by Sheila. Slightly more structured but still fun. Lovely surroundings. As with all of Sheila’s events, it’s not for profit but any surplus money goes towards Winter/Summer social events. Well attended – 30 + and you get a list of attendees emailed to you afterwards in case you can’t speak to everyone. You’re not tied in with membership fees and can see if it’s for you.
Drawbacks No formal training. Don’t always get around everyone. So that we don’t sound one sided: it’s in Beckworth Emporium so as the session comes to a draw there is often public coming in for their shopping or breakfast. You don’t get interrupted and it’s not an issue for us though!
FSB – Federation of Small Businesses
When Monthly Friday 07:30-09:00. Next meeting 14th March
Where Westone Manor Hotel, Weston Favell
Cost Free session if you’re a guest of a member. This link explains the price structure for attending a session and you can reserve your place. Non member £18. Membership starts from £120 per annum plus £30 registration fee for first year.
Benefits Formal (if you like that). Very well attended – up to 50. There was a talk from an accountant member of FSB which gave some very useful hints and tips. If you sign up to FSB you get a lot of member benefits such as legal and tax protection. We interacted a lot with the people on our table.
Drawbacks We’ve only been once and found it a bit too formal. Breakfast was not good and for the money we’d expect better. Not the best starter for inexperienced networkers. We’re a confident bunch (thick skulls) but we can imagine that it could be a bit daunting if you’re not overly confident or good at improvising. Don’t get to talk to everyone. We personally felt that it was bigger than we like for getting to know new contacts.
George Row Business Club
When Every 3rd or 4th Thursday monthly 17:30-19:30
Where Northampton and County Club (opposite All Saints Church)
Cost Usually £10. This Thursday 20th it’s free.
Benefits Relaxed in the gorgeous Northampton and County Club which used to be the town’s hospital (great if you like history and characterful buildings). Various guest speakers and themed evenings which keep things interesting, there’s been talks from David Mackintosh (leader of Northampton Council), Friends of Northampton Castle, Wine and Cheese evening, UK Haunted… Good fun and usually well attended. You’re not tied in with membership fees and can see if it’s right for you.
Drawbacks Food isn’t the best. It’s usually frozen food, wedges, pizza and little sausage rolls so avoid if you’re on a diet (has been burnt to a crisp).
Hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the networking available in Northampton. There are many, many more options available to you so just try and see what you like. Remember networking usually works when you consistently attend and build up trust with your new contacts.
If you’ve got this far, you’re interested in meeting other businesses. Keep an eye out for: Business Expo 29th April 2014 10:00-16:00 at the new Freemasons’ venue in Duston to follow up the success of October’s event.