It had been two weeks, and I hadn’t left the house. The good news? I got a ton of work done.
The bad news? I was looking a little ragged — and feeling lonely. Being a freelance writer has its benefits, but the downside is a lack of team interaction.
It was time to get out of the house and network.
Can you relate? Are you itching to meet other people in your industry? Are you looking for new customers? No matter the reason, it’s important to attend small business events every so often. Not only is it healthy to “get out,” but it’s good for your career too.
Here are a few ideas to help you find events in your area:
Join a professional association.
There’s a professional association for nearly every career path. In the past, I’ve joined the National Association of Science Writers and the American Marketing Association. Both groups offer in-person and online events, as well as a ton of resources and tools to support my career.
Normally there’s a fee to join a professional association, but I believe it’s well worth the cost. Think about it. If you attend just 1 industry event a year and generate new business from it, the fee has paid for itself. You can find a professional association by searching on here. Once you find an association that interests you, visit out their website to find a local chapter.
Check out your city council’s website.
Local governments have committees that focus solely on small business affairs. Look at what’s available in your area, especially if you live within driving distance of a large city. Often your city council will offer:
- Workshops to help you grow your business
- Networking events and lunches
- Industry newsletters and articles
- Mentoring opportunities
- Local business awards
Go to your local government’s website. Then search for the department that’s focused on small business growth. If they don’t have anything listed yet — give them a call. It might be an opportunity for you to start an event.
Join an advisory board.
You’re already an expert in your industry, so why not join an advisory board? These informal groups offer professional advice and guidance to organizations, foundations, and businesses. Not only will you network with other experts, but you’ll also enjoy the satisfaction of giving back.
A few types of advisory boards you can join:
- A customer satisfaction advisory board. Share your experience using a particular product or service and help shape its direction. Typically you’ll work with a product or customer service team to provide your feedback.
- A strategic advisory board. Businesses, new or well established, rely on advisory boards to guide their direction. Usually, these types of advisory boards are staffed with senior level leadership.
- A fundraising advisory board. Often non-profit organizations and foundations need advisors to guide and manage fundraising activities, as well as fiscal responsibilities.
Reach out to an organization, foundation, or business you appreciate. Then ask if they have an advisory board you can join.
Go to Eventbrite.com and Meetup.com.
The Internet makes it easy to find the latest events in your area. Websites like eventbrite and meetup promote local events, so it’s easy to find one any day of the week. All you need is a bit of confidence to show up at an event on your own and meet new people.
Before you head out:
- Prep! Learn about the event’s leaders and brush yourself up on the topic.
- Know where you’re going. Make sure the event is hosted by a legit organization and located in a public space.
- Bring some conversation starters. Write down a few questions you have.
- Be confident. Remember you’re an expert in your space and bring a lot to the table. There’s nothing to be nervous about.
Search social media.
Facebook is a great place to find a local small business event. Plus, if your business has a Facebook page, you can promote the event ahead of time and network with event attendees. When you sign into Facebook, go to Explore > Events. Then search for topics and keywords that match your business area.
I’ve also found Twitter to be incredibly helpful for finding small business events. Whether it’s a webinar, Twitter chat, or in-person gathering, most events are promoted ahead of time using hashtags.
Once, I signed up for a local marketing conference but didn’t want to attend it alone. Fortunately, I found a Twitter hashtag that brought together solo conference attendees. About 10 of us met up at the conference, attended workshops together, and then went out to dinner. It was a blast. Plus, a couple of people became my customers!
You can find popular Twitter hashtags by:
- Closely following influencers in your field. What are the events they’re talking about?
- Searching Twitter using industry keywords and topics.
- Asking people you follow on Twitter. Then wait for their response!
- Go to hashtag.org to research popular hashtags. You can search free or pay for a subscription to track particular phrases over time.
Monitor the local news.
Popular small business events usually get coverage on local news stations and websites. Keep your eyes open for news stories that promote events in your area — especially during national celebrations, like Small Business Week in May or Small Business Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Still can’t find one? Plan your own event!
If you live in a remote area or if your industry is very niche, it can be hard to find small business events. But, it’s also a great opportunity for you to plan an event on your own. Plus, it’s easier than you think:
- Decide whether you want to host it online (Twitter chat, webinar, video conference) or in-person. Then set up a reliable venue.
- Promote your event. Use Facebook events, create a Twitter hashtag, and promote it online. You can also create fliers and promote your event at local libraries and grocery store message boards.
- Get help and staff it appropriately. This is especially important for an in-person event.
Most importantly, get motivated and get out there. It can be easy to stay stuck inside your home or office. But, I’ve never regretted signing up for a small business event. No matter what, I’ve always gotten something out of it — whether it’s a new customer, helpful information, or just a new friend.
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