Is THIS Networking?
In the past, I’ve discussed (okay, RANTED) about what Networking is NOT, but a lot of people are still confused about what Networking IS.
It’s hard to define, because Networking can look very different, depending on who is doing it, who is watching, and what their ultimate goals are.
Over the next several posts, I’ll pull questions out of the mail bag (virtual, of course) about what constitutes actual Networking.
Scenario 1 – The NETWORKING EVENT
An announcement in the paper/trade magazine/online invites “everyone who replies by XX/XX (date)” to participate in an open-networking forum at such-and-such facility. There will be food, drink, etc. Members, one price; non-members, another price, or everyone free with a donation to the Charity of the Night. Vendor tables available (this is often where they make their money).
A lot of people ask me if this is really “worthwhile networking.”
The frustrating answer is, “It depends.”
If your goal is to collect a gazillion business cards and score some free or low-cost grazing, then yes, this is worthwhile. Why? Because your goals will be met.
Here’s who else will benefit from this type of event:
- Vendors – those people who have booths (and likely, giveaway items) will accomplish some networking goals here, as they will have the opportunity to chat with people about their product or service, collect information from interested parties, and have a list of folks who voluntarily provided information for follow-up.
The key to success with a vendor table is to have a plan going into the event: how many people you can reasonably expect to talk to, what requirements must be met in order to receive a top- line giveaway item or door prize, and how you will manage the follow-up (because, let’s face it, even the best networking means nothing if follow-up is not done correctly!)
- Event Coordinators – even if the event is “free,” there’s a cost – and that is your contact information at the registration area (or online, if pre-registration is required). If the event was “successful,” you’ll be talking about it, and will help them fill the room again for the next event.
- Caterers – my husband spent nearly two decades working private clubs and restaurants, and he would argue that an event like this is hit-or-miss. If you get in front of a handful of office managers who look for a quality caterer, or luck out and meet a wedding planner looking for something innovative, then you’ve done well at a networking event.
- Appointment-setters – the person who strategically meets just a handful of individuals who offer products or services she is actively looking for will likely meet her goals at this venue as well. (On the flip-side, if you meet someone and are encouraged to try their product even if you had no idea what it was before the event, you may want to re-assess your network meeting strategy).
- Introducers – for lack of a better term – these folks invite colleagues because they know other folks in their sphere of influence will be there, and it’s a great opportunity to introduce the two face-to-face. Chances are, they’ll also be introduced to someone new, whom they can add to their networking arsenal.
Before you attend a networking event, consider what your goals are, have a plan for what you’ll say if given the opportunity, and remember to listen more than you speak.
If you stick to the plan, you’re more likely to walk away from the event feeling “successful.”