Although the question seems rather
simple, I find it can be difficult to answer at times. Are networking events
still worth attending? I am asked this question time and time again. And, at
least for the past few years, here is my answer…It Depends.
Generally speaking, I have always been a
fan of the networking event, but with careful consideration of the event
itself. You see, many believe that any event that drawls people together, especially
at a bar or restaurant, is considered a networking event. You are networking to
meet people, right? Well yes, at least in part. But, all too often, this is
simply a way for a sales person to socially interact on their company’s dime.
The sales person is tricking themselves into believing this is time well spent
and that their agenda of meeting new people is being upheld.
Ok, so you’ve met new people. Who are
they? What role in their organization do they hold? Are they a decision maker,
or an influencer at the very least, that can open a door for you? Or, are they
a peer? That’s right, are they another sales person, from another company,
trying to do that same as you?
All too often networking events end up
being peer events where everyone hangs out, shakes hands, grabs a beer, and
swaps stories. There is no real networking involved and so when this occurs my
answer becomes, very quickly, no these types networking events are no longer
worth attending. Go grab a beer on your own dime with your friends. So, when
are they worth attending?
Using the term networking is somewhat
loose in my answer, but a good networking event is one in which you have
specifically planned ahead and targeted because you know you will have less
peer pressure and more opportunity to meet a decision maker. How do you scout out
these events you may ask yourself? The answer is rather simple, stay out of
your own industry, and attend the events that are designed around your target
prospects industry. For example, if your end goal is to meet CFO’s, well then,
go to accounting and finance oriented events, such as a CFO of the year award
sponsored by your local business publications. Or, if you target CIO/CTO level
decision makers, attend larger, nationally sponsored events that cater to this
audience, such as one sponsored by Microsoft, Oracle or Cisco.
The goal of networking is simple: put
yourself in a place where you are guaranteed to meet at least one decision
maker. In doing so you can always ask yourself whether this event or that event
increases the odds that you walk out with a “real introduction” and if you
cannot answer with confidence that it is likely you will succeed then the
networking event is not for you.