Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why some networking events may not be right for you

I've been to two networking events this week that have got me thinking. I constantly stress the importance of understanding why you are going to networking events if you want to make the most from them. That awareness can direct your planning, your behaviour at the event and your follow up and lead to much stronger results.

What I rarely talk about, however, is the understanding of why other people are there and respecting that. If your reason for attending doesn't match other people's it may well be the wrong event for you.

On Monday I was invited to attend an event at a major investment bank with a view to making some interesting new connections. Predominantly for clients of that bank, the prime purpose for most people attending was to listen to the bank's strategist talk about prospects for the year ahead and look for advice about their investments.

Although there was a 30 minute 'networking' period before the speaker began, many people simply took a seat, others waited for colleagues, while other attendees sought out their contacts from the bank. Approaching individuals wasn't a comfortable experience and in some cases was met with a less than warm front.

Yesterday I spoke at a breakfast meeting for businesses in the East London area. Organised by Bernie Mitchell, a local character well-known for his love of networking and enthusiasm in encouraging others to connect, people came primarily to network. Yes, there were also speakers at this event but it was the connections that were the main driver for many of those attending. Even those who came to hear the speakers were also aware of the networking opportunity, and open to approaches.

I'm not criticising attendees at the event on Monday. The fact is they had a different agenda to people on Thursday. Attending Monday's event with a view to building new contacts could only lead in the main to disappointment, or a lot of very hard work and rejection.

Once you have established your focus for an event, look to see if it is the right match. If your goal from attending a networking event is to meet new people, ask yourself why other people are attending. If their agenda is different to yours and they just want to hear the speaker or catch up with existing contacts, it may be worth adjusting your goals (as I did on Monday) or choosing to attend a different event.


  1. This happened to me as well - attended large event with major bank in Edinburgh. There was a brillant speaker, enjoyed this - but found it hard to network. People standing in groups - 'not opening up', staying with colleagues or friends. The strange thing was the speaker was talking about marketing - the cheapest and easiest way is to network!

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