If you want to develop, in whatever field, reaching out to others will make the difference.
You see, connecting with like-minded people can help you to develop much quicker than you would on your own through reading or listening to stuff. Particularly if you attend a meeting at which you know who will attend.
It will help you to connect quicker, if you meet people with a similar interest and hopefully even with similar beliefs. People who are like you and people whom you look up to.
In my view, one of the best ways to connect with these kind of people is to organize a meeting yourself. Being this active will not only allow you to improve your networking skills, it also allows you to “influence” who participates, what the topics should be etc.
And this exactly is what I am doing. In case you have not read about the actual challenge itself, please make sure to read the post on the Networking Challenge first, before continuing.
NOTE: If you do not want to read all the details of how I create this networking group, please scroll to the very bottom of the article to see the results and useful resources!
As I said at the end of that article, my first milestone is to setup and hold a local networking event. In this post, I am going to share with you what tools I have used, how long it took me to set it up and what activities I have done and have planned before the meeting takes place.
Setting up a Networking Group
In the course of the time I have been living here in Düsseldorf, I have been attending different gatherings of the intercultural community. Some of them are organized through standard email lists, others through online platforms.
You might or might not have heard of one of the most known platforms worldwide to organize local gatherings, which was also among these platforms used. It is called Meetup.
Meetup is a great online resource for people to connect, whether it is for photographers, salsa dancers, intercultural groups, hackers, tennis players, tech guys or entrepreneurs. You name it. Some of them take place on a regular basis, others not.
You just have to be lucky to find the group you are interested in your region, at least that is the difficulty I have encountered since I moved here.
Before deciding to finally really launch my own group, I checked on their main page whether there was already an existing group of entrepreneurs (this is the networking population I am interested in). And, I found one! Unfortunately, it is about 40 km away from where I live, so difficult to get to in the evenings.
At the same time, it had been a while since I thought about launching a group on my own, and I thought “This is my chance”!
Hence, last week Thursday evening, I sat down in front of my laptop and created this group. I did it rather spontaneously as I knew what I wanted to do and what my objectives were.
If you would like to look at the live version of this page to follow through, please click here.
For all of those interested in launching such a networking opportunity themselves, upfront: Using Meetup is pretty self explanatory. Hence, I will not list all the details, but highlight some of the important things to pay attention to.
Very early in the beginning of the setup, I was prompted to answer for whom this meetup is intended to be. Once I entered “Entrepreneurs”, there was a broad choice of similar target groups being presented to me. When you are doing it, think about whom you really what to exchange with and what the target of this networking is.
Before choosing the name for the new group, I had a look at the existing group names in the region to get some idea. At the end I went for “Entrepreneurs’ Exchange in Düsseldorf”. Might not be the most compelling name around, but I included to three important points: 1. The Target Group, 2. The Objective and 3. The Location. What would be the name of your group?
Actually this part took me the longest. There are some nice descriptions around, have a look around.
Fee (for organizers only)
In order to set up a group the payment of a small fee is requested. I took the 6 months option for US$ 12. I think this is reasonably for the platform and service they provide.
When seeing the specific page of the next group for the first time, I saw, that I needed to have a nice banner. A banner which resonated with the topic, but also something not too boring.
As it was my aim to connect with people rather soon, decided to setup a first meeting for the next month, even though I had no follow Entrepreneurs in the brand new group yet. I limited the number of people attending to 12 person. My main intention is to show that it is all about interacting, connecting and learning from each other. And that is easier in a small group than in a big one.
I was not prompted when I set up the group to insert a photo as the “group logo”. So, when I disconnected of the platform and just went on the main page to see what visitors would see, I noticed that the banner was not “transformed” into the logo. So, I quickly went back and inserted a photo. I actually bought it at istockphoto, as I will be reusing it on other occasions, I thought it is worthwhile the investment. If you are looking for “free” images, I can recommend the Flickr’s creative commons section. You will need to check the individual image rights, but most of these images you can reuse as long as you credit the owner.
As of today, May 17th 2013, there have been 7 people joining the group (one just when I started writing this post) and 3 of them signed up for the first meeting on June 4th.
NOTE 2: I actually intended to make a video to allow you to see how I created the group. It does not take very long to do. Unfortunately, some equipment that I need has not arrived on time…However, I found a video on how to create a Meetup Group here (not the latest version of Meetup).
What has been done to promote it?
When I created the group end of last week, I have been receiving some advice per email by the Meetup Headquarter. One of them was sharing with me that they will announce the group in their newsletter on the weekend, which they did! And I assume that’s where most of the signups come from.
In addition I also shared the news about this new group on LinkedIn, Twitter and Xing (the German equivalent of LinkedIn).
Yesterday, I received another message from the Meetup HQ which I appreciated and I am going to follow their advice to contact the new group members to ask them to spread the word.
Well, I am excited! So far things are going well and I am getting a few steps closer to my goal to connect with more people!
Before we finish up, here comes a summary of what I did.
Overview of activities
- Created a group on the Meetup Platform
- Setup a first meeting for this group
- Spread the word about this new group on social networks
Time: approx. 2 hours in total (room for improvement here, as I can be very picky about an introduction text!)
Cost: Meetup Fee (12 USD for 6 months) & Price for the photo (€16). Total: approx. €21 (US$ 24)
Intermediate Result: 8 group members (3 are joining me for the first event) and first mail exchanges have taken place
Some Other Useful Network Platforms For Face-to-Face Meetings
- Eventbrite: mostly for a large audience
- InterNations: for the intercultural community
- LinkedIn: You will have to do it manually though, as -to my information – Linkedin Events is no longer supported
- Plancast: new promising platform, but unfortunately not yet many events in my region. Maybe more in yours?
If you happen to live or move to France and you speak some French: Try out Amiez for your social activities, you’ll meet great people there.
- Fine tune the design of the Entrepreneur Group website
- Continue to spread the word
- Read some advice about how to become a better networker (like this article)
I will try and work on these next steps during this week and the next. I will certainly be sharing some updates of my activities and the outcomes with you soon!
Wow, this post’s length got a bit over board, I’ll improve for next time! I finish up now and hand it over to you:
What do you think? How would you go about connecting with people even strangers? Do you have some experience in organizing similar meetings ? Leave a comment!