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A great way to expand your network and be recognized as a leader is to bring a few people together and see what happens. Need some ideas for what to do? Try these new ideas for finding common ground:

  1. Trending Topic — By following some local people on Twitter I saw a post from Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent about a free gathering to talk about social media.   I have learned to just go when I think something might be interesting and am usually glad I did. With coffee donated by Saxby’s and space provided by Villanova University, we had a dynamic breakfast gathering of about 20 people, only one of whom I had ever met before.
  2. Similar Client Focus — I was recently invited to a small lunch gathering by Julie Friedman Bacchini of Neptune Moon Design. We met once at a member-based networking group and she decided to invite me and 5 other people who all work with non-profits to a lunch.  I met some interesting people, got some new ideas and found a new writer to add to my list of resources.
  3. Cross Pollinating —  Know some people from one group who would be great for another? I have some peers from an association who are thinking of starting a new, niche association. They reached out to active members and mixed in other colleagues to explore the idea.
  4. Six Degrees — Years ago I met a dynamic marketer at Aramark. who is a generous referrer. Since we met, she has introduced me to a fabulous writer, and a number of other marketers. Those referrals have connected me to a brilliant strategist, subcontractors and a host of clients. I realized that the original contacts had all moved on and had not seen each other in person in years — a perfect time to arrange a lunch or drinks to thanks them for the bounty their efforts bring.
  5. Shared Need — A colleague recently introduced me to Linda Bandura, a startup marketer/designer. Within a week of meeting, Linda invited me to a head shot party she arranged with her photographer. It was a small gathering of women professionals to chat, drink tea and get that professional portrait taken that we need but all avoid. A fun way to network — and a brilliant way for a photographer to meet new prospects and a marketer to be seen as a leader. I liked it so much, I am thinking of planning one of my own and inviting clients and prospects.
  6. Fun for a Cause — Many nonprofits host social events as fundraisers. I was invited to join a group for Martini’s and Makeovers at Saks Fifth Avenue to support Dragonfly Forest, a camp for children with serious illnesses. Going to a public event with a few others you know makes it easier to try something new.
  7. Great Resource Discussion — Rather than your standard book group, try gathering to share your best resource. You could each share a synopsis of the lessons learned from a recent blog, webinar, conference or a favorite website.

An advantage of the micro-event is that it is once and done. No weekly meeting, no heavy preparation unless the group wants that. The purpose is to bring together people with some shared interest to then branch off and form their own new relationships.

The interesting thing about these events is that none of the leaders self promoted. Just coordinating and connecting raised their profile and left the impression of leadership — without saying a word other than “welcome” and “ I thought you might like to know each other”.  Think about what kind of mini-events you can plan to get to know new resources, referrers and prospects.

Looking for other ideas for how to connect in small groups, read Networking Goes Small.

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My niece started college this year at a large state university. Due to scheduling, she wasn’t able to join the club sport she participated in all through high school. It wasn’t long before she realized that she was having trouble finding a group among the masses and needed to find a way to scale down her experience. As a child she was a swimmer, so she joined the swimming club and has now found a group she can call her own. The huge crowd has been brought down to relationship scale.

When joining a new organization the size can often be overwhelming. Joining – or creating – a small group-within-a-group Is a great stepping stone to one-on-one relationships. Some trends to try:

  • Find a club — Affinity clubs help people bond over similar interests. Sharing a favorite activity with a small group is a great way to build contacts and friendships. If your favorite activity isn’t available, start your own.
  • Take it online – Online communities are great for addressing special interests. Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr all have privacy settings that allow only members to see content. Connecting with members online often allows people to stay in touch and learn more about each other faster.
  • Bring it offline – Like everywhere else, in online communities people are seeking personal connection. Twitter users are connecting in person with local events called “tweetups”. Search www.search.twitter.com for events in your area. The NHL team the Washington Capitals created a LinkedIn group for fans and then invited them to a game. Read “A Different Look at Networking” to learn more. If you have joined a group and are only participating virtually, attend an in-person meet-up or plan one yourself.
  • Get social – Choose a few people you know a little and host a micro-event. Bringing together people you know who don’t know each other is a great way to get to know everyone better. For some great ideas, read 7 Ideas for Small Group Networking.

Sometimes the hardest part is getting to know the first few people. If you meet one person, ask him or her whom else you should know. Get a few of those people together to discuss a topic of common interest, industry trends, or just to meet others and you have a manageable event that is less stressful than a room full of people and more comfortable for some than a one-on-one lunch or meeting.

For people looking to make friends or build business relationships, a small group invitation can help avoid uncomfortable situations, confusion with dating, or worry about having enough to say. Next time you’d like to get to know someone better, invite a few others and see what happens.

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