Networking is a great way of meeting new business owners and socialising. Here are some great networking events in and around West Sussex.
West Sussex has a vibrant community of independent business owners working in a wide variety of different fields from bespoke jewellery suppliers, estate and letting agents plus web design services. Meeting people face to face over a drink is a really nice way of getting new business and getting away from your desk every once in a while!
Networking (in the form of Business Networking) is where you meet and interact with other professionals to exchange information, socialise and build contacts.
Networking events vary from free to paid for events and have various styles of format for each meeting.
The format for some events is strict, designed to drive referrals to the group and ensure that people keep coming back. Other events have a more relaxed format where members can attend as many (or as few) meetings as possible and simply chat with various members in a bar or pub for as long as you like.
Having tried many different styles of networking meetings in West Sussex and beyond, I have worked out which types of networking suits me and our Horsham web design agency. I encourage you to do the same, just go for it, if you don't like it you don't have to go back!
Here are seven networking events in and around West Sussex:
A free, friendly and relaxed event, held every second Thursday of the month. There is often a short speech by the sponsor of the evening and the sponsor will give away a prize to whoever has their card picked out of the glass. Lello meetings start after work at 6pm so it doesn't clash with your working day.
Location: Mungo's Bar, Horsham, West Sussex. For information see the Facebook page
BNI is a very successful business network. BNI meetings tend to be at breakfast or lunchtime and follow a strict format which is designed to promote referrals and a high level of attendance by members. BNI offer a free taster meeting, then members pay a yearly subscription. There are various BNI "Chapters" which meet in various places within Sussex , the UK and beyond. Be prepared though, BNI is strict. Meetings are weekly and if you can't make a meeting then you need to send someone else or use up one of your "holidays". It's not cheap, so if you are going to use BNI it needs to be a big part of your week. However, their members swear by it as a very effective way of getting work.
Location: Various. Find your local Chapter here: http://bnisussex.co.uk/en-GB/findachapter
The First Friday Network is a free monthly business networking group, held at various locations and times on varous Friday's of the month. All meetings are run by local people with a relaxed format, you can turn up as often as you like and chat with various members as much as you like. There are various meetings in East and West Sussex, including Arundel, Lewes, Chichester, Eastbourne, Worthing, Brighton, Hove and Horsham.
Location: Various, Find meetings on the official website here: https://www.firstfriday-network.co.uk/
Southwater networking group is based in Southwater, West Sussex. Southwater Networking Group is held every first Wednesday evening of the month at the Lintot Pub in Southwater. The group is friendly and free to attend. There is some format to the evening whereby each member will get to introduce themselves to the group and speak about their business for a couple of minutes and talk about what customers they are looking for. This helps everyone to quickly get familiar with what eachother do and what they are looking for from the group.
Location: The Lintot. For information and updates see the Facebook page
Origionally called Fabulous Women because it is designed to rotate around a mum's schedule, Fabulous Women and Marvellous Men is a relaxed networking event with 27 groups around London, Surrey, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Hampshire and Sussex. Meetings run at 10am - 12pm (to suit busy mum's) and start with an informal get together before each attendee gives a 60 second talk about what they do. There are then 1-2-1s or other group exercises if current members are facing challenges in any particular area.
Location: Various, for more information see the official website: https://fabulous-women.co.uk/
A relaxed event at Xenia Lounge in Crawley where members turn up when they want to, buy a drink and are free to chat with anyone else in the room. This is a really nice networking event that runs from 6-8pm on the first Tuesday of every month. Purple Networking is friendly and easy to attend, there is no charge and you can come as often or as little as you like. But for maximum results, you should go along as often as you can.
Location: Xenia Lounge, Crawley, West Sussex. For information see the Facebook Page
For the last 60 years, Gatwick Diamond Business has been representing, supporting and empowering local businesses. Gatwick Diamond Business is an independent body, owned and run by it's members. Members of Gatwick Diamond Business gain a number of benefits including networking. There is a monthly members meeting and various networking events on every month throughout Sussex.
Location: Various, for information see the official website: https://www.gatwickdiamondbusiness.com
If you're new to networking then starting off with a relaxed / no format networking event can be easiest way to get going. However, networking groups like BNI can deliver some serious results, especially if you have just started out with your business. I was told by someone I met at another networking event that she got 80% of her work from BNI!
Large networking events with hundreds of people can seem very attractive at first. Afterall, there are potentially more people to meet and so potentially more customers. However, one of the keys to networking is to keep going back and seeing the same people and getting to know them. Once you've built the trust they'll think of you when they need what you offer, or even recommend you to friends.
With a thriving small business community in West Sussex, there are many networking events to try out. This is just a small selection, you may find some other ones that you really love. Happy networking!
Less than a year after writing this article, the world changed. We entered the pandemic. Due to Covid-19 we could no longer leave our houses and meet in person due to the fear of spreading the virus.
Tools like Zoom, Teams and Google Meet exploded and networking was done on line. At the time of writing this (August 2022), in-person networking events are beginning to get going again, but online networking has become a regular thing too and it's not such a bad thing. Here are some online networking groups:
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