Monday, July 2, 2018

Networking Events: But They All Know Each Other Already!

Pictured: A whole lot of people who do not all know
each other.

(This is an excerpt from The Guy Who Knows a Guy by Michael Whitehouse)
You finally make it out to a networking event. Maybe a Business After Hours. Maybe some other kind of mixer. You come in, you pay your admission, you put your business card in the raffle basket. Now what?

You look around the room and it’s full of people talking to each other. Everyone is engrossed in conversation. They all already know each other, and you’re the newbie trying to find your way in. It’s a high school dance all over again.

Or is it?

Not pictured: a networking event.
What would be the point of a networking event where everyone all knew each other. There have been some such events, and they tend to dwindle down and eventually fail entirely. Why? Because the entire purpose of a networking event is to meet people and make connections.

What about those knots of people having long, engrossed conversations. There are two such groups you will likely find at a networking event.

The first is people from the same company who are there because the company pays for it and it’s a great place to catch up, have some wine from the open bar and have a nice after work experience. Often, these are not necessarily people who really need to network, but the company sends them out because even at the absolute minimum level of networking effort an opportunity might stumble upon you. You can usually tell these groups because everyone’s name tag has the same company on it.

Networking events are where
people go to meet new people.
These are decent groups to approach because they are in a very social comfortable mood, and, deep down, they know that their job here is to meet new people who might be of benefit for their company, and you approaching them gives them the opportunity to do so without leaving their comfort zone.

The other sort who will be having long engrossing conversations are people who just met each other. Think about it. If you see someone you know at an event, you might chat a little. How’s the wife? How’s the dog? How about that local sports team? Then, unless you have some actual business to talk about, chances are that you’ll move on. However, if you meet someone new, you don’t know anything about them. Even the most mundane questions are interesting. “Where do you work?” “What does your company do?” “Are you new to the area?” It’s all new ground, and you’re all there to meet new people, so the delving may be deep.

These people are also great to approach. You are walking up to two or more people who are just feeling each other out. Even if you just join the conversation without saying much, you can still listen in and overhear their quick biographies.

So, those groups that all look like they know each other? Either they do know each other and are looking to meet new people but are too shy to go out and meet them, or they don’t actually know each other and just met.

The moral of the story is not to be afraid. Everyone at a networking event is there to network. It's not about exclusive cliques or sticking to your own circle. If people wanted to do that, they'd stay home or go join the Stonecutters.

Definitely NOT Pictured: a networking event.

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