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Nobody believes me — but I am a shy person.   Getting in front of a room and networking is scary.  Cathy Jennings of No Pressure Networking is one of those people who takes the “fear” away to make networking fun and productive.  I’m happy to be interviewing her tomorrow at 3pm Pacific 4pm Mountain, 5 pm Central, and 6 pm Eastern as part of my Decisive Success Strategies calls.   Click here to register for that call. Cathy is also one of my Global Social Media Managers Association experts.  Here is a post that she wrote for the Global Social Media Managers Association Blog.

Finding the “right” business networking group is a lot like shopping for shoes.  It can be fun, frustrating, and sometimes, downright hazardous to your finances.

Here are a few “shopping guidelines” when looking for a networking group:

You really have to try them on to see if they fit.
Ever try on something that said “one size fits all?”  Such a joke!  Designers can’t even decide what a size 8 in women’s clothing should be across different brands and styles, let alone create something that can be worn by “everyone.”  There is no such thing.

The same is true in networking.  Networking groups all have their own personality based on the people that make up the group.  No matter what the mission statement says on the website or what your best friend says about it being “the best networking group in town”, YOU need to be the judge for yourself.  Only by going to a couple of meetings, talking to the members, and experiencing what the group is like firsthand can you determine if it is the right fit for you and your business.

Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes, you don’t.
I’ve bought cheap shoes because they were cute and matched a particular outfit – only to have them fall apart after wearing them only a few times.  I’ve also spent beaucoup bucks on what I thought were “good shoes” and the heel breaks, the insole tears or the soles wear out too quickly.

Networking groups can be that way, too.  Just because a group is “free” and doesn’t charge a membership fee, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.  And vice versa.  Just because a group charges hundreds of dollars to join, doesn’t mean it’s any better than those that don’t.  Be sure that your investment is a good one by weighing the financial costs and the benefits of membership for your business.

Even if they fit, it doesn’t mean you really need them.
You’re browsing and finding this killer purple pumps.  You already have 3 pairs of purple heels at home.  You try them on anyway and they fit like a dream.  Ahhhh.  And, so, you buy them.  They join the other purple shoes in your shoe collection and see the light of day about once a year because there are so many other shoes you have to get to.

I see this a lot.  People are sometimes members of 10, 12, or even more networking groups.  Yet, when they hear of a new group or one they haven’t been to, they just have to go and join.  Now, they have even LESS time to spend at the groups they belong to, so their attendance is sporadic and they are seen as “lacking commitment” and aren’t involved as they should be.  People don’t get to know them and their business well enough to hire them or to refer them.

Sure, there are a lot of great groups.  Fun groups.  Groups where your friends and business colleagues hang out.  Groups that may even be a great fit for your business.  But, do you really need yet another group?  Or do you really need to make the most of a few strategic groups that can truly help your business thrive?

What do you look for when you’re shopping for a networking group?