All around the world, people are scheduling, hosting, and attending networking events. They’re doing this because saying “I’m going to a networking event” sounds better to your friends and loved ones than “I’m going to a room somewhere to drink with a bunch of total strangers.”
Now I’m guessing you’ve either already been to a few of these networking events or are currently trying to psyche yourself up into attending your first one. (I’m guessing that because I believe those two conditions cover literally everyone who has ever thought about maybe, kind-of-sort-of working someday.) And make no mistake--networking events are enormously useful in terms of meeting interesting people, learning about opportunities you would otherwise never have heard of, and making the occasionally super-useful connection.
They’re also great opportunities to accomplish nothing and feel horrible about yourself and your future prospects. And who doesn’t want that? Misery loves company, after all, and we all like it when company comes over.
So, if you’d like to walk away from your next networking event with absolutely nothing to show for it,
Networking events can be intimidating, since most of us aren’t in the habit of striking up conversations with total strangers. Having a friend with you can make the entire process more comfortable. So leave them all at home! That way you’ll get to relive your first day in the high school lunchroom, standing awkwardly while you scan desperately for a friendly face. I sure do miss the way I felt about myself in junior high, and I know you do too.
Only Talk to the People You Came With!
Did I tell you to bring friends as a way to ease the discomfort of throwing yourself into conversations with total strangers? Oops!
What I meant was, bring your friends so that you can stand together in a tight circle that all but guarantees no one else will try and talk to you, exactly the way it works any place where you go hang out with a group of friends. An intelligent strategy might be to arrive together, agree to meet up in 10 or 30 or 45 minutes, and then go your separate ways to network the room. Or you might work together but agree to talk to a certain number of people by the end of the first hour.
Get Involved in Long, Detailed Conversations with People Who Can’t Possibly Help You!
Networking is kind of a gamble. Some people you meet will be interesting and useful and anxious to do business with you, and some of them will be a waste of your time. It is guaranteed that if you network for long enough, you will meet both types of people – unless you happen to stumble upon someone you know you’ll never work with but who insists on talking to you forever. There are a million ways to get out of these conversations – pretending to go to the bathroom, excusing yourself politely by exchanging business cards and promising to follow up even though you know you never will, or just flat-out;running away – but I’m hoping that you’re too nice to do any of those things.That ought to get you started. I hope we run into each other at your next networking event. If we do, I’m going to spend the entire time telling you about my recent bathroom renovation until you figure out a way to get away from me. Should be fun!
Jeff Havens is keynote speaker and corporate trainer who addresses leadership, generational issues, and other areas of professional development through a unique blend of content and entertainment. He has been a regular guest on Fox Business News and featured in CNBC, BusinessWeek, and Bloomberg News. To learn more about Jeff’s keynote presentations and corporate training, visit JeffHavens.com.