Business Networking Meetings can be a fantastic way for business owners and decision makers to build relationships, get support and ultimately win new business. This guide shows you the best business networking meetings in Newcastle & the Northeast.
There’s a wide variety of networking organisations who hold meetings in Newcastle & throughout the northeast – each with their own unique approach to networking – so I’ll run you through the main organisations present in the region and what you should expect from each meeting:
4Networking is a national networking organisation which runs over 250 breakfast, lunch and evening meetings throughout the UK. 4Networking sells itself on being 50% social and 50% business and whilst each meeting is structured they pride themselves on being informal, fun and friendly.
As part of the meeting you will be asked to stand up and give a 40 second ‘pitch’ for your business (I mention this as I know the prospect of this fills some people with dread!). There’s the chance for a member to give a 20 minute presentation on an area of interest or expertise (NOT a sales pitch) at each meeting and then there’s a chance for everyone to have three 10 minute 1-2-1’s within the meeting.
4Networking is a membership organisation, so after a couple of visits you’ll be asked to join and pay for membership, however membership gives you the opportunity to network at any meeting nationally, you don’t join a specific group. Meetings tend to attract 15 – 30 regular members, plus visitors.
In addition to the opportunities within the meetings the 4Networking Facebook group has over 27,000 members, giving further opportunity to build relationships and promote your business nationally in a fun and lively online environment.
Network B2B is an independent, locally owned networking organisation running over 40 breakfast & lunch meetings throughout UK (but mainly in the Northeast)
The meetings are friendly but structured, with a 60 seconds round (just to warn you!), a 10 minute presentation from a member (unlike 4N this CAN be a sales pitch) and a referral section. Passing referrals are a crucial part of the meetings and a vital part of the success of Network B2B, however unlike BNI above there aren’t any rules regarding members needing to pass a certain number of referrals or bring along a certain number of visitors.
Established meetings tend to attract 20 – 30 regular members, plus visitors
With Network B2B you pay for membership and join a specific group, each group operating a ‘1 from each industry’ policy – which in my opinion has both advantages and disadvantages
Network B2B has a growing Facebook group and also a members-only website, online directory and monthly newsletter
Ah, BNI…if you’re in business, even if you’ve never been to a BNI meeting, chances are you’ll have heard of it – it’s a long running, incredibly successful international organisation after all.
What sets BNI apart is how it seems to polarise opinion so readily. It really is like Marmite.
For those who ‘get’ and buy in to BNI they’ll tell you it brings them regular, quantifiable business like no other networking organisation can. And they’ll be very keen to get you to join them. For those who don’t like the BNI approach they’ll talk about the early start times, rigid structure and draconian rules regarding attendance, referrals and visitors.
Each meeting runs to a set structure with the focus very much on passing referrals, it also operates a lock-out system so each ‘Chapter’ will only have one representative from each industry. Meetings can be quite large, with 20 -50 attendees being common in the region.
BNI operates a number of breakfast meeting Chapters throughout the Northeast
BNI is such a love it or hate it organisation that you do really need to check out a meeting for yourself
Northumberland Business Network
The Northumberland Business Network is a not-for-profit networking group which meets monthly on the 1st Wednesday of every month from 9.30 – 10.45am at alternating venues in & around Ponteland
Each friendly meeting attracts 30 – 50 attendees, has the opportunity for each business to give a 60 second pitch, listen to a 10-15 minute talk from one of the attendees then have the chance for further open networking. In addition to this the Northumberland Business Network offers its ‘members’ a free directory & social media promotion
There’s no ongoing membership fees but you are required to pre-register online and there’s a small charge of £5 to cover the venue and tea, coffee and refreshments
The Mussel Club
The Mussel Club is another locally owned organisation which started out as purely a networking organisation but has now expanded to offer additional services such as marketing & advertising support
The Mussel Club breakfast meetings are free and follow the open networking format, meaning they don’t follow a set structure – it really is a case of enjoying the free tea & coffee and starting conversations with the person standing next to you (or you can check out who’s attending on the website in advance then pounce on them when they arrive…)
As you’d expect with a free event, they can be very popular with 50 – 100 attendees at each meeting. They used to offer free bacon butties but I think they’ve stopped that now. Shame.
In addition to the regular monthly meetings, The Mussel Club has a high traffic website which offers further advertising and promotional opportunities
The Inspire Network
I can’t tell you anything about the Inspire Network from personal experience as this is a women-only networking organisation
What I do know from friends who’ve attended is they run several meetings throughout the region with the focus on inspiring & supporting busy female entrepreneurs. With this in mind Inspire Network meetings aim to be both child friendly and fit around school hours
In addition to the meetings The Inspire Network has an active and engaged Facebook Group, a members only Trade Directory and an Inspire Success exclusive mentoring & support programme
Choice Networking runs a number of breakfast and lunch meetings at 8 venues across the Northeast from Cramlington to Middlesbrough
As the name suggests Choice Networking is focused on giving it’s members full choice in when & how they network. There are no membership fees, no industry lock outs and the freedom to attend wherever and whenever you choose.
Each meeting does run to a structured format, with the opportunity to give a 60 second pitch and have 1-2-1’s within the meeting
Sunderland Business Network
Sunderland Business Network was launched in 2008 through a partnership with Sunderland City Council, The North East Business & Innovation Centre and Sunderland University and is now run by volunteers to support & assist local businesses
It runs a number of free breakfast, lunch & evening meetings at venues in & around Sunderland as well as giving businesses the opportunity to showcase themselves on the website
Unsurprisingly I’ve never been to a Bizmums meeting. What with me being in Biz but not being a Mum….
Bizmums is a national organisation running over 80 ‘meetup’ groups throughout the UK and 5 in the Northeast. It’s a membership organisation with a monthly subscription which gives you access to all the meetups throughout the UK, members only Facebook group, an online directory and online Academy training portal
The Federation of Small Businesses
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is a national business support organisation that runs regular ‘FSB Connect’ networking meetings in the Northeast region
FSB Connect meetings are open to FSB members and non members alike. They are often free or with only a small charge to cover tea, coffee & refreshments. The format is typically open networking, with FSB representatives on hand
Northeast Chamber of Commerce
The Northeast Chamber of Commerce is a regional business support organisation that runs a range of networking meetings at various venues throughout the Northeast
Many meetings are exclusively for it’s 3,000 members but there are often opportunities for non-members to attend (especially if you are considering joining the organisation)
Meeting formats vary, such as Stand Up And Be Counted (an opportunity to deliver a 60 second pitch about your business to the room with informal networking afterwards), Chamber Local meetings and the flagship Chamber Exchange (a round-table structured networking & brainstorming meeting)
Not strictly speaking a networking organisation but Founders Friday is a monthly meeting run by the organisers of Newcastle Startup Week and it’s again aimed at startups. Founders Friday is a full day, structured meeting which does provide networking opportunities throughout the day
At this point I’ll declare an interest, at the time of writing I am a member of a Network B2B group (Newburn Breakfast), attend & support the Northumberland Business Network and I’m the Regional Leader for 4Networking covering the Northeast region
I see no issue in declaring my interests and letting you know the business networking meetings I’m actively involved in. There really isn’t a one-size fits all solution with networking as it’s all about the people as much as it is the meeting format. What works for me may not work for you. And that’s fine…
You really do need to try them out to find out which meeting most closely fits your personality – 4Networking, Northumberland Business Network and Network B2B are most closely aligned to my values and my approach to business but that’s not to say they’ll be right for you – most meetings (even the ones where you have to pay to join) will let you come along a couple of times as a visitor before they ask you to join…
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