As the New Year begins, it's a great time to get started on a common business resolution: meeting new people.
We turned to one of members, Eric Sarver, Esq., an attorney, specializing in business law and employment law for small to mid-sized businesses, including startups, artists, and tech companies. Eric has been practicing law for 18 years and has his own firm, The Law Offices of Eric M. Sarver since April 2001. Eric and has shared his love of meeting people and the entrepreneurial community with his networking group, The NYC Inter-Connected Professionals Group.
If you're looking for an opportunity right now, our very own community Manager Babs Schneider will be joining Eric to speak about community and coworking at a Meetup on 1/11. For more tips on building relationships throughout the year, we sat down with Eric to learn a bit more.
Q. Why is the beginning of year a good time to start networking?
There are a few reasons why January is a great time to dive into networking. First, after year-end numbers come in, many business owners and startups will evaluate how well they have met their goals, in terms of growing their base of customers or clients, and increasing their profits. Savvy business owners will want to expand their network of possible referral sources and increase their exposure, and networking is a great way to accomplish these goals. Second, those successful businesses and startups that recognize the value of networking, but have been out of the networking loop during the holiday season, will want to jump right back in. The third reason you’re likely to find good fellow entrepreneurs and professionals in January is summed up in three short words: New Year’s Resolutions.
Q. How do you find the best networking events?
For some, the anxiety and stress around networking starts with the question of how to choose an event or a group for networking. Many people – especially the more recently self-employed or new business owners – may feel compelled to attend nearly every networking event, in search of new opportunities, new business, or both. However, like many aspects of life, there is a balance between quality and quantity; between variety and consistency.
While you might meet more people if you go to 12 networking events this month instead of eight, it may be more productive if you ask some key questions about a prospective networking function, and then narrow your selection.
I recommend asking the following questions, before evaluating a networking event:
1. Does the group tend to attract people from your field – or from fields where you might share common resources or experiences?
2. Is the group you are attending diverse in its membership?
3. Do you feel comfortable in the setting? (Some people prefer a morning café, a breakfast setting, or a private back room for attendees, rather than a large open or noisy bar).
4. Are the people who attend this group repeat attendees? (An important factor, both in attesting to the group members' satisfaction level, and in indicating the group members’ commitment to building potential long-term relationships).
Answering these questions may reduce your anxiety, and make the first step – selection of networking groups and events – flow more naturally. One thing I like about The NYC Inter-Connected Professionals Group is that we try to check off a positive answer to the above questions; we are diverse, have members from a variety of fields, we have repeat attendees with positive reviews, and we secure a comfortable, private space at The Terrace Club.
Q: How do I make sure I develop these relationships and find new opportunities to meet people every day?
You can find opportunities to network all around you! If you rent space at a co-working office, like The Yard, there are people in the kitchen and the large windowed area at any time of day. Check out the online site as well, for events happening during the week – both in the day time and evening. These can provide great opportunities to connect with others, both in and out of your field.
As for finding networking groups: I recommend that people attend a mix of large networking groups and smaller, more personalized groups as well. The larger groups – if well run - can increase your chances of connecting with a wide variety of people, thus helping to diversify your network. However, for larger groups, I like to check the reviews – both from external publications, and reviews from the group’s own members – to see if the networking group is well-regarded. For example, I have had many positive experiences at the award- winning New York City Business Networking Group, which meets one evening per month, usually on a Tuesday evening. Similarly, mixing large networking events and groups in with smaller, more personalized groups will give you a chance to increase your one-on-one time with people, and can lead to an easier opportunity for follow-up with one-on-one meetings. My ideal goal is to attend 4 larger events per month, and 4 smaller ones as well. I focus on consistency in my attendance, rather than a sporadic or random stop-in at many different functions. Meetup, LinkedIn, and publications in your field will also list a variety of networking events around the NYC area.
Lastly, whether networking in a group or meeting in person, it helps me to approach networking with two ideas in mind:
1. I try to genuinely give to others, and see how I can be of service, and
2. I look at the long / end goal: it’s not about getting lots of business cards in one night. Rather, it’s about building new, quality professional relationships. With these goals in mind, you’re more likely to have a successful, rewarding networking experience.
Header Photo Courtesy of Unfiltered NY