Having a difficult time making friends in your new city or never quite figured out how to connect? Do you feel like everyone is just passing you by and that no one has time to hang out with you? I have been there, it’s not easy. But don’t worry, because having shared experiences with others helps build lasting friendships. In addition, shared experiences can help build business relationships and create meaningful connections.

Here are three ways to find these opportunities…

Check out your local chamber or area networking group. These groups will often have events happening throughout the year. While it may not seem glamorous or be the first thing you think of, these events will give you a chance to practice talking and introducing yourself. Trust me, we all have to work on and practice that skill.

This episode of Business Matters features Audrianna Bly. She covers anything and everything happening in Butler re: networking.

Another place to look is special interest groups. These are places like outdoor groups, tech groups, and demographic commonalities. Think mom groups, generational groups, and sports opportunities. 

Meetup.com, while not something everyone uses, is active in most major cities. You’ll find lots of special interest groups and opportunities to meet new people. 

Virtual experiences

Now let’s get a little bit into what virtual experiences have turned into and what they can look like. Some of the largest conferences had to go virtual in the last 12 months and they had varying degrees of success. Some chose to postpone entirely while others took on the challenge of creating a virtual experience meant to feel as much like an in-person experience as possible.

In this author’s humble opinion some brands nailed it and other conferences should have skipped. But this article isn’t about who did it best. I want to focus on what actually helped and how that can be recreated in smaller groups for local networking groups and communities trying to keep people connected.

Experimentation and what we learned

For the cowork, I came up with an experimental way of networking and was able to test it out a couple of times. I learned some valuable lessons from that experience.

What worked well

  • Break out rooms
  • Sponsor rooms inside Facebook Groups
  • Speakers available and live in chat while their recorded session was being premiered
  • Live keynotes inside of a dedicated Facebook Group
  • Afterparty convos on Clubhouse (and now Twitter Spaces as of this publishing)

What didn’t work

  • One dimensional events
  • Not being able to connect in real-time
  • Making registration too complicated
  • Not giving clear enough directions
  • Making engaging in the event too complicated

Upcoming Virtual Event

Based on the experiments I ran and what people asked for, the next networking event co-hosted by ConnectWork on Main and Butler County Young Professionals will have a happy hour evening with open networking on March 16, 2021. You can find more info and how to register here.

The Agenda for the Evening

We are very excited to have Chelynne Curci-Lang as our guest bartender for the evening. She will be sharing a drink recipe and walking us through how to make it. 

Chelynne’s presentation will be kicking off the evening followed by a couple of lightning rounds of networking one-on-one. These rounds happen in small groups so you will be paired one-on-one hopefully with someone you don’t know or someone who may be a match for something you’re looking for or need. After those rounds have concluded we’ll have casual happy hour networking with breakout rooms you can move around freely.

The Holloway Old Fashioned

The Holloway Old Fashioned is a different twist on the classic old-fashioned cocktail. For this recipe, we will be using Jameson Black Barrel. The double charred barrels used to age the whiskey give it similar qualities to bourbon, making it a perfect substitute.

The name Holloway Old Fashioned is for the character Joan Holloway from the television show Mad Men. The show is about the lives of people working for Madison Avenue advertising agencies in the 1960s. Throughout the series, Joan goes from being the head secretary to starting her own ad agency in the final episode. Her growth and transformation are not only a nod to Women’s History Month but also to the goal of ConnectWork on Main.

Themed Break Out Rooms

In the interest of having some structure without holding everyone to a specific agenda, we’ve opted to try themed break-out rooms. Our intention is that the theme can be a starting point for conversation for anyone that pops into the room. You will be able to leave anytime and move through the rooms as you wish. We believe in the rule of two feet. If you aren’t feeling the convo or room anymore, feel free to use your two virtual feet and go somewhere else.

Open Rooms

💡The Annex – Tech talk (the tech and tools you need, podcasting gear, etc)

💡The Conference Room – Talking Shop & Business

💡The Cafe – Socialize

💡 The Benoit Room – ISO (Hiring or need to get hired)

Follow Up

The magic really is in the follow-up. It doesn’t matter how amazing the event was or how many to make connections you made. If you don’t follow up with those connections or implement what you learned, it’s just another moment in time. you can follow up with new connections by connecting on LinkedIn, reaching out via email, and letting them know how nice it was to meet them, or recording a video telling them the same. However you decide to follow up, we hope you’ll join us for the next networking event. 

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