I went to a networking meet-up. It was for bloggers, by bloggers. Immediately it sounded great. The ability to connect with people in similar field to me, learn from them, and ultimately start a few meaningful relationships. If I came away making friends, even better. But this was a networking event first and foremost.
The one feeling I’ve come away with? Frustration. All the elements were in place, we just squandered the opportunity to connect. Here’s what went wrong and how we can fix it:
Choose your location. You are not going on a date, entertaining clients or meeting up with friends. That immediately knocks off all of your favourite venues. You need somewhere well-lit, preferably without music. It needs to be quiet. Let’s face it you are meeting strangers. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone for an evening and trying to connect with people IRL, and that’s not an easy thing to do. Your location needs to facilitate conversations between people. To do that they’re going to need to see each other and hear what they have to say.
Social networking is vital. I know this and I wasn’t alone, the bloggers were also addicted to Social, the good and bad of it. But our venue didn’t have 3G mobile signal. I need to be able to easily follow fellow bloggers on Twitter in a few taps. Most venues have Wi-Fi but make sure it’s printed and distributed for your guests to see. And while you’re printing stuff, it’s probably worth printing your event’s hashtag. Combined all the bloggers in the room had an impressive Social footprint, capitalise on it.
Time is precious. Make a networking event concise. Understand that your guests are giving up their free time. Push your guests to say hello by giving them a time-limit within which to connect, with the option to stay on later and have a few drinks if they wish. Knowing that the clock’s ticking will get people meeting each other and moving around the group.
You walk into a room and meet five complete strangers, after introducing yourselves, you start chatting. You’re hearing what they’re saying and responding, pushing this dialogue further. Before you know it, you’re having a conversation. But what’s their name? You love what they’re saying, you just can’t recall their name. even though you heard it less than 5 minutes ago, that conversation better have been a great one. People are easy to remember, names not so much. As painful as it is, name tags work. Let’s help alleviate a shared burden and make names easy.
You are here to network so bring your business cards people. Dominick said to me yesterday, “you never know who is a potential client or colleague”.
This brings me back to the first point, networking events are ultimately about beneficial (business) relationships, as a guest you have a duty to help facilitate connections. Make it easy for people to connect with you; Don’t forget your business cards. It also says something about you; it says you’re unprepared. You haven’t taken the time to give this situation thought. You knew you were coming to a networking event but it says you’re either not really that interested in connecting or you are hard to work with.
Or hey, maybe people just didn’t want to give me their cards.
Networking events can be great, especially when the guests were as impressive, talented and entertaining as last night.
To the organisers: let me help. You’ve done the hard graft pulling these bloggers together; let’s make the most of it. With a few easy fixes we could have a really strong, beneficial community of bloggers all helping each other to grow. Let’s make the next one amazing.