During the pandemic our normal way of life and business was severely disrupted. Jumping in the car to meet a potential client or meet up with existing clients or business contacts was difficult or impossible. 
Of course we adapted to those challenges and in one area, Business Networking, we took to online like never before. Here at it’seeze Web Design Milton Keynes, we know how challenging it can be for businesses to find new clients and keep the work flowing in. 
Networking with other local business owners, who either directly can use your services or indirectly introduce you to their contacts can be a rich resource for your business. 
In addition, regular networking will help you find trusted suppliers for services you need to outsource or recommend to your clients, it can help development of your business skills and of course, making friends who can provide phenomenal emotional support and encouragement. 
For business owners in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas, there’s an amazing choice of business networking groups to suit anyone. Finding the best one for you and your business takes a little work and all allow guests to visitor before they sign up. If you are new to networking we recommend trying as many as possible to see which will suit your aims and aspirations and where you feel comfortable. 
To help you get started, we've listed some of the networking options available in our local area and how they work. We at it'seeze Milton Keynes are either members of these groups or have had some experience or recommendation regarding them.  
There’s no substitute for personal experience though, so check them out for yourself and see which ones will suit you best. Where available I have included a link to help you find out more but feel free to contact me if you would like advice or an introduction. 
IMPORTANT: The aim of business networking is to help you grow your business, remember this when visiting and choose wisely.  

1. BNI (Business Networking International) 

BNI is a global networking and referral organisation with local 'chapters' throughout the UK. 
The BNI format is focused on referring business between members you get to know, like, and trust and its core principle is that of Givers Gain, if you give business to fellow members in BNI they will want to give business to you.  
Many people we speak to have pre-conceived feelings about BNI, often from talking to past members that it didn't suit or worst those who have never visited before. 
There is no getting away from the fact that BNI has a formal structure as well as obligations on weekly attendance and contributions. If you think of it as a regularly scheduled business meeting though this makes perfect sense. 
Members often credit their BNI membership with bringing in a significant percentage of their business either through referrals or from the training or confidence they have gained as members. 
BNI has a business type 'lock out' policy as well which ensures you will never compete for work within your chapter. You are a member of your own chapter and generally you work as a team to generate business but where a business type is not represented then referrals between chapters often occur. You can also network across chapters assuming you don't clash business wise with other members in those chapters.  
Click here to find out more about your local Milton Keynes BNI Chapter or contact us for a personal invite.  

2. 4Networking 

Unlike BNI, as a 4Networking ‘Passport Member,’ you’re encouraged and free to attend as many meetings as you like, anywhere in the country. If you are unrestricted on where you can do business this is a great opportunity to make contacts across a wider area and even nationally. This is even easier currently with all meetings online and there are meetings at various times Monday to Saturday. 
While some find the 4Networking format more relaxed than BNI it still follows a fixed agenda to ensure an efficient meeting which includes a 40sec pitch from all attendees, a member 20min 4Sight presentation and three 10min 121s with other members or visitors. 
One of the 4Networking mottos is 50% business, 50% social, it is inevitable that you will make friends as well as business contacts while networking so this is a good ethos and reminds us that networking is just as much about developing relationships as doing business. Again unlike BNI all business passed or conducted between members is done in private and there’s no obligation to make referrals or attend meetings. With this in mind we recommend tracking the business that 4Networking or any networking generates to justify the time and investment. 
4Networking doesn't have a lock out policy so you may find one or more companies from your sector in attendance, this can lead to some rivalry but can also lead to some collaborations. 
Click here to find out more about 4Networking or contact us for a personal introduction. 

3. Collaborate MK 

Collaborate MK is a relatively new group launched in 2020 which has quickly gained a large membership. As the name suggests the purpose is to introduce local businesses and encourage business collaborations to help stimulate growth for businesses in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas. 
Currently meeting 3 times a month online which will change to 1 live event and 2 virtual events when it is safe and allowed to go back to meetings in person. Virtual meetings have a regular large attendance, a sponsor speaker gets the opportunity to present on a subject related to their business followed by 2 or 3 breakout sessions of 15mins with 5 or 6 attendees for an opportunity to get to know each other better. 
Your business is also listed in the members directory on the Collaborate MK website and members are encouraged to join their WhatsApp group where requests and recommendations are regularly posted along with social and support messages. 
The meetings are fairly laid back, you can attend when you can and if that important call comes through mid-meeting then you are not obliged to stay to the end. There are 3 membership options with annual or monthly subscriptions making membership flexible and affordable. 
If you are in or around the Milton Keynes area and want to connect with a large number of other local businesses then check out their website here or contact us for a personal introduction. 

4. Business Live Networking 

Business Live UK (due to popular demand) is re-launching Business Live Networking in February 2021 as an online, monthly networking event aimed at decision makers and entrepreneurs. Their team of Regional Directors will be hosting an event for up to 80 leaders every month. 
Previously when we where able to meet in person these events were highly regarded and attracted business leaders both locally and from further afield. Going online will undoubtedly draw an inspirational group of attendees that will strengthen your connections and business opportunities. 
Get in early and join Business Live UK for this exciting re-launch, register here or contact us for a personal introduction. 
Business Live UK also hold other industry or opportunity specific networking events, check them out here

5. Business Buzz 

Bored of Zoom meetings, tired of not being able to speak to who you want then Business Buzz may be for you. 
Utilising the Remo platform, Business Buzz runs a cafe style event that is not dissimilar to how their live events ran back in the good old days of live events. On entering the network meeting you will see several tables laid out with 4 to 6 seats on each, you can see who is at each table and you can choose any of the tables to join the conversation and make new contacts. There are also 121 tables to build closer relationships and also a chill out area to take time out for an important call or to refill your cup of tea. Move around the tables to meet more people and don't forget to organise those 121s for after the meeting. 
Members of the Buzz team are on hand in an orientation area in case you need some help or would like an introduction to get you started on your first visit. No membership is required, you pay as you go so great if you find a space in your diary and want to make the most of that time to meet new people. 
Currently with 35 'locations' from Surrey to the Midlands, Business Buzz gives you the opportunity to network locally or further afield on various days of the week. Each location holds a monthly 2 hour meeting with only a 5 or 10min break to hear from the team running the group so straightforward getting to know each other and building your contacts and potential business opportunities. 
Find out more about Business Buzz here or if you would like to join me at a meeting in or around Milton Keynes then contact me and I would be happy to introduce you at one of the meetings.  

6. Local Chambers of Commerce 

Like all Chambers across Great Britain, the Milton Keynes organisation exists to support and promote the interests of local businesses and help generate cooperation and business growth across Milton Keynes and surrounding area. 
As a Chamber member you not only get the opportunity to network with other businesses across Milton Keynes, you get other benefits including business training and advice, mentoring events, promotional opportunities to their extensive database of members and local businesses along with a listing on their business directory.  
it'seeze Milton Keynes is yet to join the chamber but we intend to in 2021 and look forward to enjoying the many benefits of membership. 
Find out more about Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce here. 

7. Willen Hospice Business Club 

The Willen Hospice monthly Business Club provides the opportunity to combine networking with supporting a well loved local charity. The membership costs go towards the running of Willen Hospice and you receive benefits such as a video introducing your business on their website as well your logo on the business club wall at the hospice.  
The meeting includes breakout sessions to get to know individual members as well as a guest speaker presentation and an update on the fundraising events of Willen Hospice and where your fees and donations are being spent. 
If you would like to support a great local charity and meet and network with like minded businesses then check them out here or contact me for an introduction. 

Highlight your networking group 

The above is just a small selection of business networking groups in and around Milton Keynes that we at it'seeze Milton Keynes have experienced and that we know have continued to meet online during meeting restrictions. If you would like us to add your group to this blog then please send details in the form below with a short description of the group and where visitors can find more information and I will update and re-share as soon as possible.  
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