Whether you’re an Orlando local or someone who is visiting Orlando on business, you might be looking to make some connections with other like-minded professionals. Networking events can be the perfect way to do just that. Orlando has a plethora of different networking opportunities within the city and the surrounding areas.
What is a Networking Event?
A networking event is an event held for professionals where they can mingle and interact with other people in their own industry and with people in other industries as well. These events can be held in the morning before most people go to work, over lunch as something that’s often called a “Lunch & Learn”, or in the evening after work is over at various exciting venues.
Most evening events are held in restaurants or bars where people can mingle freely and share drinks, appetizers, and conversations in a happy hour-style atmosphere. Similar to a Lunch & Learn, sometimes the evening events might have a guest speaker who comes to talk to everyone about a business-related topic. With more events being held virtually right now due to COVID, these online events are more likely to have a guest speaker or a panel of speakers.
The cost of a networking event varies depending on the company, what the event offers, and the location in which it’s being held. Some events are free, some have a small event fee that ranges from about $5-$20, and some are membership-based and therefore would have an annual membership fee.
Why is Networking Important?
Networking can be important to different people for different reasons. If you’re looking for a new job or looking to hire someone to fill a position at your company, these events can be a great place to look. Even if you don’t meet the right company or person at the event, you might meet someone who can put you in touch with the right people. This is especially true for recent graduates. Getting to know someone in a semi-social environment can then help you get your foot in the door at the company they work for. Networking events are perfect for these low-pressure interactions.
These types of events can also be very beneficial for entrepreneurs and small business owners. No one knows your business better than you, so a networking event is the perfect place to tell people about your business. You might find investors there, you can pass out business cards, and gather social media followers by making connections over a few drinks or glasses of wine.
In addition to for-profit businesses, there are also people from nonprofit organizations that attend networking events. Maybe you personally are looking for a way to get involved and volunteer in your community or you’re in charge of finding volunteers for your organization; either way, you’ll find people to connect with at these events.
What Types of Networking Groups Are Out There?
You name it and there’s probably a networking group dedicated to that industry or group of people. Florida Citrus Sports even offers its Orlando Sports Business Network which helps provide career development opportunities to Orlando locals interested in a career in sports! Whether you’re interested in attending networking events or educational seminars hosted by the Orlando Sports Business Network, if sports business is your thing, this is not an opportunity to pass up!
Many other networking organizations host events that bring in a mixture of people from all different industries, but there are also some that are dedicated to specific groups of people. Some specific types of groups that you might find are:
- Industry-specific groups – these cater to people specifically in one industry such as legal, real estate, or health care.
- LGBTQ+ groups – these can be helpful for finding businesses that are truly LGBTQ-friendly
- Women and minority-based networking groups – if you’re looking to be a part of or support a women-owned or minority-owned business, this is the type of group for you.
- Religious-based networking groups – whether you’re business is a religious one or you would just like to make connections with other business professionals within your own faith, a religious-based networking group could be just what you’re looking for.
- Education-industry networking groups – if you’re a teacher in the Orlando area and are looking to share ideas and knowledge with other educators in the area, there are groups out there that can help you do just that.
A Few Networking Groups You Might Like
There really are dozens of different networking groups in and around the Orlando area. While some of them have their own websites, many of them can be found on Meetup.com where they post links to sign up for their events. While you can find a full list there, here are a few popular groups in the Orlando area.
Network After Work
Network After Work is a group that meets monthly all around the Orlando area. While their in-person meetings might be limited right now due to COVID, when they do meet in person, they generally alternate their event locations between downtown Orlando and somewhere near the theme parks.
People from all different industries and career levels come to their events and they even make it super easy to know who is in what industry because they use color-coded name tags that correlate with different industries. So if you’re looking for people in your industry or another one, you can easily spot them from across the room. They even have a specific color name tag for people who are looking for a job so you can more easily connect with those people as well.
Another great thing about Network After Work is that it’s a nationwide company. So if you’re traveling for work and are looking to make connections in another city, just check out their website to see if there is a chapter in that city, and go make some connections!
Their events usually have a small fee but if you get on their mailing list, they will often email coupons for discounted or free entry to a certain number of attendees who are first to sign up. These events include drink tickets, drink specials, and occasionally include appetizers and entertainment.
Women in Technology International
As the name suggests, Women in Technology International is not only industry-specific but also specific to women. A group like this can be especially helpful for women who work or would like to work in this male-dominated industry. According to their site, WITI’s mission is “to empower women worldwide to achieve unimagined possibilities and transformations through technology, leadership and economic prosperity.”
With COVID going on right now, many of WITI’s events are online only; in fact, they host over 400 virtual events per year, which means you get the opportunity to connect with other women multiple times per month. Being a part of WITI gets you access to things like
- Interactive Coaching Circles and Networking Cafes
- Continuing education opportunities
- Access to their Webinar recordings archive
- Invitations to attend their WITI members-only events
- Speaking Engagements
- Wellbeing Center
- The WITI Virtual Summit
- Career Fairs
- Opportunity to be highlighted on their Women on the Move webpage
- Opportunity to be highlighted and published in their Newsletter
- Member profile and listing in the WITI Member Database
- Mentorship opportunities (become a mentor; find a mentor)
- Leadership opportunities in WITI Regional Networks
In their own words, RedCarpetMonday is “a sophisticated, social business network, featuring successful business owners, professionals, and entrepreneurs.” Like many other groups, they meet monthly (as COVID allows) and you’ll find people from all professions and backgrounds at their events. Their events are specifically for people 21+ and they require everyone to be in business attire.
Much like Network After Work, they also have color-coded name tags available so you can easily identify who works in what industry. The categories they have are
- Marketing & Advertising
- Health Care
- Real Estate
Their in-person events also have a small fee but that fee includes two drink tickets, appetizers, entertainment options, and a raffle giveaway.
Orlando LGBT Social Network for Professionals
The Orlando LGBT Social Network for Professionals is a group that meets monthly (as COVID allows) and is an excellent place for people in the LGBTQIAP community to gather and socialize in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
People of all industries attend their events so you’ll have a wealth of different people to connect with. In addition to their professional networking events, this group also hosts social events like going out to eat or going to the theme parks.
So whether you’re part of the LGBTQ community or just want to let people know that your business is LGBTQ-friendly, these events could be perfect for you!
Time to Start Networking!
Now that you know a little more about the networking scene in Orlando, it’s time to put yourself out there and make some new business relationships! Find that dream job you’ve always wanted, promote your new startup business, find the perfect employee to add to your team, or just make some new friends.
Be sure to bring your business cards with you when you go to a networking event so that you can easily share your contact information… plus they are usually used if the event has a raffle. Even if you’re there looking for a job, create some business cards for yourself and either include your LinkedIn information or maybe a QR code on the card that takes people directly to your profile or resume. That way you can hand out your resume without carrying around paper copies of it.
Whatever your reason for networking, just get out there and try out a few different groups to see which one is the right fit for you. With all of the options out there, you’re sure to find the perfect one!