Networking Groups: Are they worth it?

networkingI have to say its been many years since I was a part of BNI.  BNI is a networking group which meets once per week at a time such as 7:00am or at lunch.  My group met early in the morning and I would say there was a group of about 20 of us.  With BNI, only 1 person from each profession is allowed in a particular group.  This means that networking can be more effective because you get to know 1 professional from each industry very well.  The group I was part of made it a point at every meeting that you must come with ideas about referrals for other members and we would write them down on referral slips to pass around the table.  Everyone walked out with something.  As you know, I am a photographer and I always walked out with some type of lead to follow up on so don’t be discouraged by other writers who tell you its not for you unless you are a tax attorney or real estate agent.  Contact the group you would like to join and gauge the possibilities with them before deciding if this is right for you.  This group gave me the skills to come up with that perfect “Elevator Pitch” that allows me to express my mission and what I can potentially mean to a client. All in all, professionals can get a lot out of networking groups if they put the effort into it and BNI is no exception.  If you can find one, I would encourage you to check them out.  Many employers are very open to these meetings and find them to be very valuable for your own growth.  Many other companies believe it is just a part of a professionals day so there is no “Heads up I am going to my BNI meeting” needed.  There is an annual membership for BNI so you will need to contact the chapter you are interested in directly to find out the fee. This was the only cost for the chapter I was involved in as we didn’t hold our meetings at expensive restaurants or bars. We met in a conference room at a non profit organization.  There are alternatives for those of you who can not find a group that meets at a time that’s convenient for you.  Many Chambers of Commerce are now holding networking groups as well.  These are sometimes after business hour meetings so it allows you to work a full time job and possibly network to build your dream job.  The annual membership fee for joining the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce in Grand Rapids, MI is $500.00 for a professional with 25 or less employees.   The chamber referral group is $75.00.  I haven’t tried the Chamber’s networking group yet but will let you know what I find out when I do.  It looks like there are some great programs and opportunities there.  Until then, feel free to contact me and let me know your thoughts on the networking groups you have participated in.