There is an abundance of different networking groups available to join for businesses in all sectors and locations. Some groups set specific joining criteria to ensure they take members with similar approaches or requirements, such as size of company or professional background.
It is possible to establish connections through a variety of different channels, including:
Trade – for development opportunities, you can find trade associations at the Trade Association Forum website.
Employers’ federations – business support and best practice on employment issues can be found at organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business and the British Chambers of Commerce, as well as the Confederation of British Industry.
Regional / local organisations – your local Chambers of Commerce can provide valuable advice and support as well as up-to-date local news. The British Chambers of Commerce website gives details of individual regional organisations.
Community organisations – these are action groups that represent local, social or ethnic interests. The Business in the Community website offers information about community organisations.
Education and research organisations – the Higher Education Academy website gives details on which organisations participate in networking. These organisations aim to explore development initiatives and provide access to research into markets, products and best practice.
Learning networks – these offer training and development events for managers and employees to keep them up-to-date with current theories and to hear from key speakers and researchers. To access these networks, approach trade bodies that are relevant to your particular industry and / or location.
These are some of the UK's major business networking organisers:
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) – this is a national business network of accredited chambers of commerce across the UK. It helps British businesses thrive by working with the government to shape business policy and also by offering services and advice for businesses. Members can benefit from its services online and can meet other businesses by attending BCC-hosted events.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) – this is the UK’s largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of small businesses, by lobbying the government and organising conferences for its members, as well as offering online discussion forums.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) – this organisation provides business support and protection to small and medium sized businesses across the UK. It offers free breakfast networking events to members, where they can meet other small business owners as well as getting practical business advice from expert speakers.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – as ‘the voice of business’, this is a lobbying organisation for UK businesses on national and international issues. The group runs conferences, events and meetings for its members on both regional and national levels.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) – this is Europe’s largest membership organisation for business leaders. One-day conferences and free seminars are on offer to members which provide great networking opportunities while bringing key industry information up-to-date.
The Met Club
– this is a relaxed and informal members club where business people can meet and socialise and discuss all things business-related.
The British Council
– as the UK’s international cultural relations body, it provides businesses with introductions to high-quality professionals in key industry sectors from international markets.
Business Networking International (BNI) – is the largest business network in the world, where members can share ideas and contacts.
NRG Business Networks
– organises facilitated business networking events for its members, who are mainly independent professionals that are either self-employed or working for small or medium sized businesses.
The Business Network
– 17-years since its launch, this group offers monthly lunchtime events to senior decision-makers where they can develop a support network of business contacts.