I’ve been to all kinds of networking events – posh expensive ones in posh expensive hotels, quirky ones in pubs, regular ones, irregular ones, expensive, cheap .. and it has only taken me just over 30 years to admit to myself that I haven’t really got much benefit from them.
I always approach each event with some optimism about what I might learn or who I might meet, but I invariably come away feeling disappointed. I know it’s down to me to make the connections, follow up etc. and if I was a total newbie I would accept some criticism for not giving things enough time to develop. But having attended hundreds of events since the late 80’s – the inescapable conclusion I have come to about networking events is as follows:
1. I am a salesman
2. Everyone else is a salesman
3. Salesmen don’t buy things, they sell them
So the last place I’m going to succeed is in a room full of people who, whatever else they may say, are primarily and rightly 99% focussed on their own sales. Yes I might meet someone who may become a business partner (which did actually happen once), or who may introduce me to some business, but I prefer to build those relationships one to one and it feels like formal networking events just don’t offer enough value to me to justify attendance. I know it’s different for different types of business, but I’m looking for fairly specific vertical market contacts who are best contacted in other ways.
I’m not naturally chatty and find it slightly uncomfortable trying to start conversations, so one good thing about networking events is that they more or less force me to do both of these things, which is great but I am not sure if this is a good enough reason to keep doing them.