Perhaps you are out of town at a conference and are attending a related evening event. You have a couple of friends present, so you decide to spend all your time at a table chatting with them. When you get back to your hotel room, you’ve met no new people, but, at least, you’re not stressed out.
If this is how you behaved at your last conference or recent event, this article is here to say that you are doing yourself a great disfavor! It is understood that event networking is as about as popular as public speaking. For most people, both of these activities strike fear into the heart as few things can. However, like many intimidating endeavors, event networking can yield dividends that are far beyond anything imagined. Once you get comfortable networking, you will quickly wonder why you didn’t start doing this years ago!
So to get you in the proper mindset at your next event, here are some reasons why you should network. Since salespeople should already know the value of networking, these are reasons to consider that are not directly sales related.
Networking Means Connecting
Just look it up in the dictionary – networking is all about connecting. For technologists, the network will be interconnected computer systems. You are probably reading this right now via the Internet, the biggest network in the world. If the Internet is the biggest way to connect people, then event networking is number two.
Build Your Rolodex and Learn
As you probably already know, events are a great place to connect with people with whom you already have a relationship. Initially you will want to spend all your time with such people, and they are not to be ignored. For people who are more acquaintances than friends, you can use time at the event to nurture that relationship into one that is more collegial or into a lasting friendship.
However, you need to network beyond the people you already know. If you are being productive, you will be connecting to a whole new set of peers. Since these people will be involved in activities that overlap what you do, they will be a great source of personal education and self-improvement. If you have an earnest conversation with these people, you will gain many valuable ideas, insights and relationships that will enhance your career and endeavors.
The kind of people you can meet via networking will vary greatly. Probably most people will not seem to be related to what you do in any way – an unrelated profession, for example. However, there may be a time where you or someone you know may need such a person. Even these “unrelated” people can enhance your standing by helping you to build up your “rolodex”. A great rolodex will always give you an opportunity to impress.
Degrees of Separation
One thing about networking that you cannot quantify is good old fashioned serendipity. Just because you are there and involved you might meet an incredible person you never knew about. Or you might run into that person you always wanted to meet. If you are a networker with a plan, you might not meet your “top person” but you might get to know somebody who is friends with that hot gun. When you network you can play the “six degrees of separation” game – you can position yourself to be much closer to those people you admire than you were at the beginning of the event.
Build a Safety Net
Not coincidentally, the first syllable in “network” is “net.” We live in volatile times and there may come a day when you will need to reach deep into your personal relationships to find a job, locate a house, solve a problem, and so forth. The connections you build at events are precisely the kind of people who can help you in times of challenge. Networking events are a free place to get advice from all kinds of qualified people.
However, you will find that successful people do not wait for a crisis to use their network. In fact, they are constantly using their connections to take their career or business to the next level. This, however, is after time has been put in to build a strong series of relationships.
The Serendipity Effect
As mentioned before, networking is an environment where “chance events” can happen. By connecting to people, you open the door to possibilities you may never have even dreamed of. For example, a peer may tell you how he solved a problem that has stumped you for months. Or she can point to a great business or organization that can help your endeavors. Perhaps, you will get a useful bit of coaching. Maybe you will become aware of a great opportunity that can enhance your career. By simply being open at events you can open yourself up to an entire world of exciting possibilities.
Blow Your Own Horn
I read this book many years ago called “Blow Your Own Horn”. The premise is simple – don’t count on anybody else sharing your accomplishments and skills. You need to do the heavy lifting of making yourself known. At events you have a great chance to let an expanded set of people know your capabilities.
Networking is a great way to boost your confidence. The very fact that you are networking means you are overcoming the initial fear. This will result in a true sense of accomplishment. Your networking work will also create a sense of pride because you are now connecting to a whole new set of successful people that you were previously not exposed. These people will create a positive influence in your life because they will expand your imagination of what is possible.
In short, networking events are nothing to fear! They can be great fun and will improve your life in ways you can never imagine.