“Your network is your net worth”, goes a popular saying. I believe in this; however, given the format followed by networking events in India, I conclude it to be a huge waste of time. The revelation comes after two years of regular event attendance across India.
Types of People Visible in Networking Events
There are five types.
The Eating Tribe
No disrespect to anyone, I increasingly find people lapping up free passes just to turn up for the free meal. You often find them leaving after the lunch/afternoon hi-tea. They just roam around, sit for a few sessions, collect the goody bags and leave.
The Pitch Peddlers
They are my dose of humour at these networking events. Just ask, ‘What do you do’? and oh boy, be ready to be stranded at the exact same spot for the next 15 minutes listening to the next multimillionaire ideas. I am not negating their idea/s, just pointing out how pitches shouldn’t be shared.
The Introverted Loners
The forlorn look on their faces tugs at my heart. Tagging along with friends, they often stand on the sidelines, not knowing how to start a conversation.
The Popularity Seeker
Roaming around the event venue in dapper suits and dresses, clicking selfies and pretending to be a celeb! They portray a larger-than-life attitude, discussing branded clothes and calendar coordinating the next event. They are the high and mighty without any merit.
The Real Deal
You don’t find them in the seminar rooms and networking area. They are over at the lounges discussing and closing deals….and that is what should matter.
Now, if I have to put these five categories of people in a pie-chart, it will look like this:
If you really need to participate in a networking event, make sure to visit with #5 in mind, nothing else!
Need further simplification?
See this pie-chart published over at the Harvard Business Review by Greg McKeown.
Rick Stromback, the entrepreneur, and venture capitalist, once said:
Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They are attached to people.
This is perhaps the reason why people attend events, with the intention to create new connections and leverage them in the long run. In the traditional sense, networking is a waste of time, energy, and money. Divert these three assets in creating strategic social capital.
Social capital is the “reflection of one’s intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, and diplomacy”, says the Najafi Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Building a social capital is crucial to developing a global career or business. It involves looking at your abilities candidly, particularly the skills involved in interacting with complete strangers.
The purpose of a social capital is to create a diverse web of trusted relationships that will serve your personal and professional goals, says Cari E. Guittard from the Hult International Business School.
Rule the Networking Scene With These Hacks
Assuming that you fall under the #5 category of people, you would want to maximise participation in any event. It takes the time to reach the #5 level of business dealings. How do you get there? Here are my personal hacks.
Pre-Talk with Prospects
The usual practice is to display a list of sponsors and speakers on the event website. Two weeks before the event, identify prospects from the list and communicate with the concerned person – either the name will be given on the event website or you can call up the company and ask for the same by citing the event.
Talk to the prospect beforehand, via email or mobile. Get into a comfort zone. Don’t pitch shamelessly. Analyse whether a future collaboration with the company is possible or not. Take the association further when you meet during the event. Fix a prior appointment.
Skip The Sessions
I don’t mean to doubt the capability of the speakers, being a speaker myself but I would rather talk to 25 interested people than a room full of 500 non-interested audience members. Check out the sessions, what they are about and think whether it is something you want to sit in and listen. If not, stay in the networking zone.
Let Your Work Precede You
The fact is not everyone will be interested in talking to you, especially because you’re just starting out and no one knows you, your accomplishments to get interested. Don’t blame them. Don’t feel offended for not getting their attention. Instead, work towards establishing a reputation that will make people seek you out.
You will meet new people and cards will be exchanged. Don’t wait post-event for them to contact you. You’ll be a disappointment. Take the lead and contact them. It’s a usual human tendency to want the other person to take the lead and it is what you need to do.
To ensure a better recall factor from the prospect, your business card should be unique. A fabulous idea is to print a card with your photograph on it. No, not with your passport photo but with a photo that exudes a certain attitude and style to make it worth remembering.
Unless you attend the events with a strategic roadmap, the networking events will always be a huge waste of time. Try to build pivotal contacts and build good business relationships.