The Florida entrepreneur and startup community is thriving, and there are groups and networking events across the state that reflect that. No matter where you find yourself, it’s very likely that there is as least one networking group in your area. A good place to start your search is Meetup, an online directory that organizers groups (both professional and personal) by location. Just enter your location in the search field, choose a radius, and discover dozens of potential events and groups nearby.
Beyond that, the groups and events listed below include some of the best that Florida has to offer.
Started in 1985, this organization hosts several events each month (over 150 events each year!) in various location throughout South Florida. Anyone can attend a networking event for a flat rate of $10, or you can opt for a VIP membership - which allows unlimited attendance - for $199/year. In addition to the frequent monthly events, Biz to Biz also schedules several Business Expos (the next one, the Fall Business Expo, is scheduled for September 10th). These events allow companies both new and old to get themselves some much needed exposure. A table at the expo starts at $175 and up, depending on the size of the exhibit you plan.
This one offers budget-friendly events and annual membership (just $5/year). And while it does lean more towards the informal (pub nights, social outings, ice skating, etc.), it is a great place to meet other young professionals (members must be aged 23-39) in the Tampa Bay area. It’s membership is currently closing in on 2400.
Similar in style and scope to the Tampa Bay Young Professionals, this group creates networking and mingling opportunities for Tampa Bay professionals aged 30 and up. A membership nearly 2000 strong, the group meets for dancing, wine tasting, road trips, beach days, and other relaxed and informal events.
The Orlando Tech Meetup hosts a monthly demo night. Five new tech startups are given three minutes to present their company/product/service, after which there is a three minutes Q & A with the audience. Feedback and constructive criticism are the order of the day.
Aimed at professionals in the Gainesville area between the ages of 21-30, this group wants to connect young entrepreneurs with like-minded individuals. Their events are relatively laid back and fun, but do allow for meeting and greeting. Membership is free, and there are currently 371 active members.
Active in both Orlando and South Florida, NetParty is aimed at young professionals in their 20s and 30s in a number of cities across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Membership is currently free, with a global membership count over 200,000. NetParty sponsors business and social networking events at a variety of venues. The main event is the frequently held NetParty Salon & Social, an extended cocktail hour and networking opportunity. Other events include NetParty Turbo (“speed-dating for business connections”), Tech Night 2000 (“for Startup Folk and the People Who Love Them”), and the NetParty Social (a “purely social event”). Join and receive updates and event news.
There are other groups. Lots. All over Florida. Check out the business directory for your area. Conduct a search on LinkedIn using your city/area and “professional group/network” as the keywords. Ditto on Facebook and Twitter. The groups exist. You just need to find them.
Networking need not be formal and stuffy. In fact, most events are laid back and fun, giving you the opportunity to truly meet and connect with others.