Are You Wasting Your Time at Networking Events?
November 8, 2011 4 Comments
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.