Are You Wasting Your Time at Networking Events?

Yesterday, I went to my first speed networking event.  Speed networking is like speed dating for business.  In the course of less than an hour, I had brief conversations with about a dozen people, all small business owners who sold products or services to either customers  or to other small- to medium-sized businesses.

I found it  exhilarating, efficient, and enlightening.    It was exhilarating because we only had 4 minutes to chat before switching to a new conversation partner.  It was efficient because 4 minutes was enough time to determine if there was a likely reason to follow up (strategic partner or referral source).  With the facilitator forcing us to switch, there was no need to have an “exit” plan to move onto another person.  It was enlightening because I realized that the people attending this networking event, like most small business networking events, were neither my target market (for professional speaking and executive presentation coaching) nor were they likely to be either strategic partners or referral partners.  To take a negative view, I probably wasted my time.

But I prefer a positive take!  In traditional networking mixers, I spend much more than 4 minutes with people.  I love getting to know people, whether or not we might build a business relationship.  Everyone has a story and I love hearing their story and connecting with them.  Talking with new people is a lot of fun for me–chit chat is like cat nip to my soul.  The fun of chit chat often dulls my realization that certain conversations will likely be non-productive business-wise.  Not so with speed-networking.  There was no time for chit chat, so the lack of a real business reason to follow up was painfully clear.

However, I don’t think I wasted my time because  I learned a valuable lesson that was obscured for me in traditional networking mixers: Focus your networking and connection-building with your Target Clients or Targeted Strategic and Referral Partners.   Don’t just fill your calendar with networking events.  Select your events mindfully.  Ask yourself this question before attending a networking event:  Will Target Clients, Strategic Partners or Referral Partners likely be there? 

If not, maybe you are wasting your time.

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About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

4 Responses to Are You Wasting Your Time at Networking Events?

  1. Diane, Thank you for this article. I wish I would have read it a year ago! I so agree that networking just to network is not a good use of time. It’s important to have a goal or vision of what you want to accomplish before you determine what networking events to go to to get value for your time – and if it is not good for your business – don’t go! Monica

    • Monica–Networking just to network is not a total waste of time, if you are working on building your networking skills (like follow-up, etc.). And, you do happen upon some great people!

  2. merylrunion says:

    I had a dream about speed networking – didn’t know it was for real. The dream was a signal tome that I need to go where my customers are.

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