I had the pleasure of seeing professional networking expert Dave Clarke speak last year in London and thought it would be interesting to interview him here on the blog. Networking is a big part of personal branding and business in general and a strong network will probably be your number one revenue stream over time. Let’s see what Dave has to say…

Hi Dave, how did you get into networking?

I discovered formal, organised networking groups about 8 years ago. I had recently moved and was a business development partner in a Management Consultancy. I wanted to meet other business professionals in my new area. My experience of different groups was mixed to say the least. I was frustrated that none of the groups met my needs so started my own [NRG Networks}.   I have a sales and marketing background, have run a number of Telecoms & Internet start ups & been a partner in a management consultancy. All our business development used to came through close collaboration with other businesses. Many of these were complementary to us and many were competitors.

Tell us about NRG Networks and how it is different to BNI?

NRG run Networking Groups for the Directors and Partners of established businesses and professional Firms. They typically provide their services on a Regional or National basis. Each NRG group has a monthly meeting that is facilitated so they get to share business, support and knowledge.   BNI is a closed group with a rule of only one member per business category. NRG is open to more people in the same category. My experience is that an open collaborative approach like this suits many business owners and professionals more than a closed one.

What are the biggest benefits to members?

The facilitated (rather than enforced) structure means they get to develop themselves and their business by building a network that is right for them. In a recent survey of NRG members the amount of new business generated per year through NRG was over £15,000 [$20,000] in their second year. One exceeding the average by a factor of 10!   They get to enjoy it too and as Andy Lopata said recently “It’s the combination of a core membership who understand networking, a good mix of businesses of different sizes, and a relaxed atmosphere that make it such a worthwhile investment.”

Any hard-to-spot pitfalls that are critical to avoid in networking?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking networking is a numbers game. Spend quality time with fewer people rather than attending every meeting you can & meeting lots of people once.

What networking tip in general can you recommend?

Focus on why you are networking and structure your time and efforts. Following up will make you different from most of the others that people meet. Weekly tips at the business networking blog.

Looking out 3 to 5 years, what do you think will be the next big change in the world of networking?

The technology catching up with the way we organize our real life social networks. These networks include our family, school friends, college friends, work friends, church, social clubs, sports clubs, business groups, community groups, hobbies etc. In each of these we will have a few really close ‘connections’ or ‘friends’ and some more looser ties. It is not always appropriate to mix these. It is not easy to organise yourself online to reflect this so I still think the technology has some way to go.

What are the things that pick you up when your chips are down?

My faith, my wife, my children, my friends, my music (and Manchester United winning!).

What’s the one thing people can do to help you right now?

Encourage any professionals or business owners they know to give NRG a try.   Dave Clarke is speaking at the Personal Branding Club London on the 12th of April.