Monday, November 17, 2008

And our survey says....

Just how many opportunities are left behind because of our fear of networking, or inability to create a networking strategy to guide our activity?

Last week I spoke at a networking event for the events industry for at the excellent facilities hosted by The Royal Society of Medicine at One Wimpole Street in the West End of London. There were over 200 people in the audience from the events industry, ranging from conference organisers, event travel firms and recruitment consultancies to venues and even the UK's leading Madonna tribute act!

It was interesting to find out what this group had in common. Thanks to the state of the art facilities at One Wimpole Street, I ran a quick survey.

Using a 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' format, I asked people to vote on a number of questions, using keypads by their seats. The results were interesting, if not surprising to me!

The primary goal of 74% of the attendees was to either meet new people or raise the profile of their business, yet 72% of them had come with, and were sitting with someone they already knew.

It would be fair to point out that this wasn't a scientific survey and the result might had been slightly different if we had held the vote in an open area with people standing and able to mix, rather than in a lecture theatre. How different would it have been though? Whether at networking events, conferences or seminars we do naturally head towards the people we know, into our comfort zone.

The reason is that we haven't set our primary goal before we come. If we did, it would be more natural to leave our colleagues and friends behind for the duration of the event. Yet most of us turn up without that clear focus in mind.

Only 14% of the people there admitted to having a clear vision for their networking, knowing where every event fits in. 27% simply accept invites on an individual basis. Despite this, 86% rate networking either as 'quite' or 'very important' as a business development tool. The vast majority were in the latter category.

These are worrying results. With so many people networking on an ad hoc basis, results are so much harder to come by for everyone. We need to move to a position where people understand what networking can bring to them and act accordingly, selecting the right events to attend and interacting positively to reach their goals.

A good understanding of the right way to interact with others can make a big difference. The session after my talk buzzed as people took up the challenge to open a conversation without asking 'what do you do'. Suggesting people don't use 'I'm going to the toilet' to close a conversation also left a lot of people standing with legs crossed, yours truly included!

It starts with the understanding of why you're there though. That's where a strategy makes all of the difference.


  1. Hi Andy,

    thanks for sharing this !

    However the results are not so surprising to me. Most people network without really thinking about it.

    Not because they don't want to, but because nobody ever told them how to approach it.

    As we both know, it is not that difficult, you just have to be aware of what's going on and have a vision of where you want to go with your career or business.

    Then everything becomes more clear.

    Have a great networking day!


    Jan Vermeiren, Founder of Networking Coach.

  2. Absolutely agreed Jan, they weren't a surprise to me either.

    I ran a seminar this morning. Only one person in the group had a networking strategy, yet all agreed that they could achieve so much more if they had one in place.

    It's a change of positioning, from looking at networking as a game, to approaching it as a serious business tool. Once people accept that, the steps to put a strategy into action aren't tough at all.

    Thanks for your comment