The best networking groups in Canberra

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Which are the best networking groups in Canberra? Photo: File.

Maybe you are a sole trader tired of your own internal dialogue? Perhaps you are seeking the advice of other smart operators in the business community?

Whatever the case may be, it sounds like you could do with some support from other like-minded business owners. Networking groups are professional collectives of local business owners who gather to share ideas, give support, and help build upon businesses.

Many networking groups leverage the expertise of members to build knowledge within the group. They also seek guidance from external sources in the form of guest speakers, business coaches, and mentors.

Importantly, they foster networking. In doing so, encouraging business leaders to work with other business leaders for mutual benefit. This may be in the form of a business referral, testimonial, event support, or positive mention to people they know.

Anyone in the world of small business knows that the best referral is given from one person to another. Whether it be a satisfied customer, a friend of the family, or source in a professional network, personal recommendations do go a long way.

Such is the popularly of networking groups, that Australia and the Canberra region, have seen an explosion of them. But with so many options from not-for-profit, to professional associations and more, how do you know which will work for you?

The key to successful networking is choosing the right opportunity for your needs. As businesses differ, so too do networking groups. Thankfully, there are many wonderful local options available, so do read on to find out more.

What makes a great networking group?

Great networking groups drive the entrepreneurial spirit, expand business knowledge, and fuel business growth. To ensure you use your time and effort wisely we have pulled together some key attributes to help assess and identify an effective networking group:

  • Power by association. The greatest value of your networking group will come from the association you have with its members. In many cases, the quality of the relationships directly correlates with the value exchange. Therefore, evaluate each on the calibre of its current membership base. Consider the nature of the members, their industry, organisation type and how long they have been in business. Some of the best networking groups even recruit selectively, to ensure a balanced group of members.
  • Commitment & contribution. Joining a business networking group requires not only commitment, but also active contribution on your behalf. It’s important to understand a groups professional ethos, or intent. The best networking groups focus on developing mutually beneficial relationships, with an expectation to give before they receive. To ensure the best chances of a professional payoff look for those groups who are all about what members can do for each other.
  • Fosters learning. One of the greatest benefits of joining a networking group is that it provides fertile ground for gaining business knowledge. The best groups foster continued learning, whether this be through member exchanges, mentors, guest speakers and more. They may offer opportunities to gain business or product feedback, test new ideas, and offer new perspectives. As a business owner staying ahead of the curve is challenging, so having access to business guidance and support is invaluable.
  • Structural parity. Before joining a network group evaluate the nature, structure, and frequency of meetings to ensure they suit you. Some groups meet frequency with an formal meeting structure, while others meet periodically over a casual drink. So, to ensure the right fit consider the structure that best suits you along with the times you are available to make. Regardless of meeting structure, the best networking groups will meet consistently, allowing real relationships to form between members.
  • Investment. As the old expression goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The cost of joining a group generally depends on the nature of the organisation. Some are commercial organisations, other community organisations, while others are not-for-profits. Moreover, some memberships incur a joining or annual fee, while others requirement payment on an event basis. When choosing a networking group consider the cost versus the expected return, being sure to factor in things like your time along with any fees. Always be sure to try before you buy and attend as many sessions as you can before making a commitment.

The best networking groups in Canberra

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Network One

Network One

Home to Canberra’s fastest growing business networking group, Network One has attracted some of the regions best and brightest minds to help businesses gain more through effective networking groups. They believe that nothing is more valuable than creating meaningful connections, and as such are all about creating valuable referrals amongst members.

Network One has the A to Z of businesses covered, from accounts through to cleaners, providing a diverse community of likeminded professionals who are all about growing businesses together. Offering weekly group breakfasts at the Hyatt Hotel and an array of networking events, the group provides an inclusive and innovative environment for business owners to truly thrive.

Unlike other business networking groups, Network One is a not for profit organisation. As such, it does rely on an annual fee structure or the need to achieve referral targets. Rather, the group places emphasis on leading innovation and entrepreneurship through learning. To unlock your business potential and create lifelong professional relationships look to Network One.

Jonathan Mosslar had this to say about Network One on Google, The most friendly and welcoming networking group I have ever been part of. Being a member has definitely been a factor in the growth of my business over the last 2 years”

120 Commonwealth Avenue
Canberra ACT 2600

Business Networking Reimagined

Business Networking Reimagined was founded in 2015 by business coach and strategist Matt Alderton. After spending two decades running several successful businesses, his goal was to create a program based in training and education to help business owners thrive.

Now boasting almost fifty locations around Australia, Business Networking Reimagined is also at home in the local community. Offering fortnightly meetings to align and relationship build with other smart operators look to Business Networking Reimagined Canberra.

Arleen Hanks had this to say about the group, Great way to connect with new people and grow your business both in person and online. Very good support structure.”

Business Network International

Business Network International was founded in over thirty years ago in the US; and now spans 74 countries and over 250,000 members.

Positioned as a premier business to business networking organisation, the Canberra chapter aims to increase connections through regular local meetings.

Their networking platform provides the right environment, training, and support systems, to help forge professional relationships which generate referrals and business growth. For the learnings of a multinational with heritage that spans decades consider Business Network International.

David McLean had this to say about the group on Facebook, “I have been a member for just over 12 months. Learning is fantastic and have had 30 x return on investment. So happy with the result.”

Canberra Innovation Network

Founded in 2014, the Canberra Innovation Network (CRBRIN) was created from a cross collaboration between the government and the regions world class education and research institutions. As a not-for-profit organisation they focus on nurturing Canberra’s start up community.

The Canberra Innovation Network runs an extensive programme including everything from networking and events through to incubation, acceleration and more. They connect entrepreneurs and small businesses with leading experts, mentors, and programme founders. To nurture, test, or scale your business Canberra Innovation Network is worth a visit.

Tatum Brown had this to say about the network on Facebook, A fantastic connection point for researchers, small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups.”

Canberra Women in Business

Canberra Women in Business have been providing support and development opportunities for businesswomen in the region for almost thirty years. They provide an environment that connects members with other local businesses for support, which ultimately leads to business growth through referrals and sharing of skills and expertise.

As a not-for-profit they attract business owners, employees from all sized organisations and members of professional organisations. Canberra Women in Business hosts an array of events from speed networking, guest breakfasts, and business awards. For an environment tailored to the needs of women, look to Canberra Women in Business.

Laurie McDonald shared her experience with the group on Facebook, Fabulous professional networking organisation to join if you are a businesswoman in Canberra. The support from the other members, President and organising committee are second to none.”

If you’re looking for more information on small business services in Canberra, you might like our article on the best business advisors, the best PR and copywriting services, or the best marketing agencies Canberra has to offer.

Your experience with networking groups in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the networking groups listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are business networking groups?
In traditional terms, business networking is the process of forming mutually beneficial professional relationships with other businesses, their employ, and potential clients or customers. Business networking groups take this process a step further by forming member lead collectives of business owners allowing them to connect regularly, and in doing so, furthering business interests in mutually beneficial ways.
Are there different types of business networking organisations?
Yes! Business networking organisations can typically be classified into five main types: casual contact networks, strong contact networks, community service clubs, professional associations, and online networks. The type of network best suited to your individual or business will depend on your needs, so bet sure to research your options before committing.
What are the benefits of networking?
For many small to medium sized businesses referrals by way of recommendation or word of mouth, are one of the key drivers for attracting new business. A core benefit of networking is the strengthening of business relationships, opening the door to potential new business opportunities. Other worthy benefits include business guidance and support, exposure to different perspectives and fresh ideas, as well as knowledge building.
What is the key to effective networking?
The key to effective business networking is the creation of professional relationships which ultimately result in referrals for your business.
Do business networking groups work?
One of the greatest assets offered by business networking groups are the regular meetings with members. These meetings tend to focus on more than just social interaction, and by nature builds professional relationships – and business leads – swiftly. Whether or not a particular networking group is right for you will depend on a number of factors, including cost, style, and commitment, so be sure to do your homework to ensure the right fit.

What's Your Opinion?


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46 Responses to The best networking groups in Canberra
Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) 10:09 am 10 Feb 21

Business at Breakfast. There are now two online zoom calls at 7am and 10am on Thursday, but also two fabulous in person ones. It’s hard to have favourites, but I’m very partial to the meeting at 7am on Wednesdays at Queanbeyan (Bean Central Cafe). It is such a warm and collaborative group – and this morning we had a Chinese New Year theme! 6.45am Thursdays at EQ Cafe, Deakin is also great.

Honestly, B@B is a community that got me through the difficult times of bushfires and COVID. The contacts have become friends and advocates. I love how the community helps and supports each other.

Maryanne Gore Maryanne Gore 11:17 am 09 Feb 21

Julie Morris Thanks, eagle eye! Canberra Women in Business - CWB Hope you are well!

Monica Lindemann Monica Lindemann 2:33 pm 08 Feb 21

Business @ Breakfast meets early Thursday (6:45am) mornings in Deakin. I found the group to be very welcoming, friendly and supportive of small business owners. I no longer attend regularly, but remain in touch with members. It’s a great source of contacts for all sorts of services – printing, design, IT, health & wellbeing, social media etc. They can be contacted through their Facebook page and website https://actbusinessatbreakfast.com

Ivan76 Ivan76 6:44 pm 25 May 09

I was a member of BNI for a year or so & found them all to be pretentious snobs at the Belconnen (Thursday morning at the cafe) group that made me want to vommit each time a member spoke.

The Burleigh Griffin group however seemed a lot more professional and showed a genuine interest to others in the group.

I have never heard of Schmooze before but I would suggest it was created by someone as an alternative networking group to the nose in the sky culture at BNI.

My advise to business owners – Take the probationary free membership from BNI and use it whilst pretending that you really want to pay (some rediculous fee) to join. Once you have used up your free time then go & have a look at Schmooze – Ill bet they’re cheaper.

astrojax astrojax 10:52 pm 22 May 09

that was my point – i did say ‘some’ bn members; presumably these were also schmooze members. shoddy, all round. i’ll not be back.

harvyk1 harvyk1 2:28 pm 22 May 09

Actually astrojax, it should be the Schmooze members who didn’t want to fit with with the Schmooze culture should have been asked to leave, not a blanket ban on all BNI members.

astrojax astrojax 9:24 am 22 May 09

this is sad tidings. seems a bit of a low rent and shoddy move by phillip; particularly sad and shoddy the non-bn members excluded. but it also sounds like some bn members ought to have had more sensitivity for which networking group function they were attending.

just ’cause you play rugby doesn’t mean you tackle people outside the game.

johnny_the_knife johnny_the_knife 8:34 am 22 May 09

MWF said :

LMFAO!

A couple of who gives a shit, unknown “lets develop and help eachother” online groups for Gen Y Canberrens to suck up to other Gen Y’s in Canberra.

I would suggest you do a little more research before you decide to post such comments. I strongly dispute your assertion that BNI and/or Schmooze are aimed at Gen Y. Within my BNI chapter which has around 25 members, there are two people who would fit into the age boundaries of Generation Y. While Schmooze does appear have a younger demographic than BNI, there are plenty of members of Gen X who participate, and I would hazard a guess they outnumber Gen ‘Y’ers. According to the ABS, more than two thirds of business operators are aged between 25 and 55, so it’s not surprising to see a similar age grouping at business networking events.

Furthermore, while both BNI and Schmooze have web sites, they are not online groups as you have stated. BNI holds weekly breakfast meetings at various locations around Canberra, while Schmooze has at least one monthly function, normally in the evening.

If you would like to learn more about BNI, I would encourage you to come along to a meeting as a guest, you would be more than welcome at any of the Canberra chapters. I’m not sure if you’d be welcome at Schmooze, it seems that really depends on the whims of the proprietor.

Since the majority of participants in BNI and Schmooze are note members of Gen Y, I don’t see how the ACT Governments Gen Y Community is relevant to this debate.

(Sorry about the double post, quote tool didn’t want to play)

johnny_the_knife johnny_the_knife 8:32 am 22 May 09

MWF said :

LMFAO!

A couple of who gives a shit, unknown “lets develop and help eachother” online groups for Gen Y Canberrens to suck up to other Gen Y’s in Canberra.

I would suggest you do a little more research before you decide to post such comments. I strongly dispute your assertion that BNI and/or Schmooze are aimed at Gen Y. Within my BNI chapter which has around 25 members, there are two people who would fit into the age boundaries of Generation Y. While Schmooze does appear have a younger demographic than BNI, there are plenty of members of Gen X who participate, and I would hazard a guess they outnumber Gen ‘Y’ers. According to the ABS, more than two thirds of business operators are aged between 25 and 55, so it’s not surprising to see a similar age grouping at business networking events.

Furthermore, while both BNI and Schmooze have web sites, they are not online groups as you have stated. BNI holds weekly breakfast meetings at various locations around Canberra, while Schmooze has at least one monthly function, normally in the evening.

If you would like to learn more about BNI, I would encourage you to come along to a meeting as a guest, you would be more than welcome at any of the Canberra chapters. I’m not sure if you’d be welcome at Schmooze, it seems that really depends on the whims of the proprietor.

Since the majority of participants in BNI and Schmooze are note members of Gen Y, I don’t see how the ACT Governments Gen Y Community is relevant to this debate.

harvyk1 harvyk1 8:21 am 22 May 09

Thumper said :

Does anyone else find it weird that these people have a strange little club whereby they try to use everyone they meet, even friends?

The idea of both BNI (and I thought Schmooze) was that they are business networking groups. The idea was that you generated business from them. Now every so oftan I run into friends at these things, and every so oftan someone who I met at these things becomes a friend. But first and foremost these are meant to be a place where business deals are struck.

harvyk1 harvyk1 8:18 am 22 May 09

MWF – who said this is a Gen Y thing? Infact Gen Y is grossly under represented in both BNI and Schmooze.

Also Johnny_The_Knife – In my 15 months of attending schmooze, I’d say Travel agents and recruiters where under represented as well. Infact I’d only ever come across one Travel agent and one recruitment company, and I met them both in this year! But as you say they are both groups of people who are known to be good networkers.

Thumper Thumper 8:11 am 22 May 09

Does anyone else find it weird that these people have a strange little club whereby they try to use everyone they meet, even friends?

MWF MWF 11:38 pm 21 May 09

LMFAO!

A couple of who gives a shit, unknown “lets develop and help eachother” online groups for Gen Y Canberrens to suck up to other Gen Y’s in Canberra.

Grow up and take your shit fights to another arena. The ACT Govt has recently started a specific Gen Y “community”. Publicly funded, they meet once a month or so. Ask your pals who work for the ACT Govt for an invite.

Perhaps you will get some free alcohol and food.

Spam Box Spam Box 9:37 pm 21 May 09

***Canberra is a very small place, and that BNI members are experts at talking to people.***

Hmmm, theres a few ways that could be taken and some of them aren’t good

LaLa LaLa 9:04 pm 21 May 09

Part of my job is networking but I don’t need to join a club to do it. Sounds painful to me.

Nambucco Deliria Nambucco Deliria 8:10 pm 21 May 09

Do either of these networks employ a ‘club handshake’?

Jean Mc Jean Mc 7:12 pm 21 May 09

As a former member of BNI who has been ousted from Schmooze I’d like to know where I stand. Have I been ousted because of a membership that I don’t have (they didn’t know I’d left) or because I’ve been tainted with the BNI philosophy of using networking to build relationships that generate business. (Hang on, isn’t that the Schmooze philosophy?).

Are they ousting people because of their associations or their philosophy. Am I never to be allowed in Schmooze again because I want to appropriate my scarce time according to the return I’m likely to get for my business.

Even though I’ve left BNI – I would still support it because I’ve developed some of the most valuable relationships I have with people there. Not only referral relationships but mentors, suppliers and in some case friends.

I can see how this would be diametrically opposed to the Schmooze philosophy.

Granny Granny 6:21 pm 21 May 09

Bingo! Kind of like the ‘Canberra Goss’ of networking, really.

PM PM 6:11 pm 21 May 09

I-filed said :

“n addition, we also offer a unique service – the Schmooze Concierge Service. All you need to do is contact us prior to an event with your request or who you’d like to meet and at the event one of the Schmooze team will make the introduction for you discreetly and then the rest is up to you. We also provide a discreet professional intermediary service where we can cultivate contacts on your behalf, such as personally inviting members to special presentations you host. A consultancy fee applies for service.”

Now it sounds more like an escort service…!

I-filed I-filed 6:07 pm 21 May 09

“n addition, we also offer a unique service – the Schmooze Concierge Service. All you need to do is contact us prior to an event with your request or who you’d like to meet and at the event one of the Schmooze team will make the introduction for you discreetly and then the rest is up to you. We also provide a discreet professional intermediary service where we can cultivate contacts on your behalf, such as personally inviting members to special presentations you host. A consultancy fee applies for service.”

Huh? A networking club where people don’t introduce themselves to each other?

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