Archive for March, 2010

Networking in the US

March 10, 2010

Have you ever wondered what networking in another country might be like?

How would you feel turning up to a meeting where you know no-one, in a country that was unfamiliar? Excited? Challenged? Nervous? I think I was all 3 when I recently visited a business networking group, whilst in holiday in Florida.

That’s me, front row, in the cream trousers! (The lovely lady in the jeans isn’t trying to run away, that was how she posed for the photo.)

When I network in the UK, there’s usually a goal or two in mind as I enter the room; I am there to make new contacts, raise others’ awareness of what I do, and develop strategic alliances where possible. On this occasion, I was curious to see how they did it ‘over the pond’, and how – if at all – it was any different to networking in the UK. I also enjoy taking myself out of my comfort zone from time to time, and trying new things. This was one of those occasions. I didn’t really know what to expect or what they’d make of me. As it turned out, they made me feel very welcome indeed and, as I’d planned ahead and found a contact from a group near to where I was staying (good old internet!), they were expecting me.

I am used to getting up between 5:30 and 6:15am to get to my local networking groups, which start anywhere from 6:30am. But this time (and I was on holiday!) I was afforded a lie-in, and didn’t need to be there until 8am. However, on that particular morning, there was a big thunderstorm, so I decided to leave earlier than I’d planned, so I could take my time driving. I had Satnav, but the rain was hitting the windscreen so hard and loud, that I couldn’t hear what the voice was saying. Luckily I am relatively good at map-reading and was able to navigate my way there by glancing at the screen occasionally.

When I arrived, I was met with – “So you must be Debbie!” – and from then on I felt quite relaxed. The meeting started with informal networking, coffee/juice, and saying hello to about half the 25 or so people there. Then we had a cooked breakfast (plus cereal and fruit) and did more formal networking. One of the members did a presentation about his car business, and did a great job. (He’s the gentleman in the front row next to me in the blue shirt.) I heard from everyone in the room, through a 60-seconds pitch, and realised I was the only coach in the room. I also had the opportunity to say who I was, where I was from, and what I did. A few people asked for my details, so we exchanged cards.

All in all, it was a business-like, yet relaxed affair, which I enjoyed, and gave me an extra confidence boost. I understand and believe that networking is about building relationships, and having made these contacts in Florida I will now be able to use the internet (and its variety of networking forums) to keep in touch and build those relationships even though I may not see them. In addition, this experience has put ‘networking abroad’ within my comfort zone, which means I will not think twice if given the opportunity to network abroad again. As far as the group dynamics were concerned, it wasn’t that different to networking in the UK, except there were more people from the Insurance and Real Estate businesses.

So “hi” to my new friends in Florida, thanks for your openness and enthusiasm, and the invite to return again in the future.

To everyone else, if you’re ever abroad and want to experience networking I would recommend it; plus I’d love to hear how you got on!