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Networking…..worth it, or just an excuse to get out the office?

October 11, 2012

It seems as though a day doesn’t pass without me receiving another invite to a ‘unique’, ‘not your average’, ‘brand new’ networking event - any day, anytime, somewhere in the city you will find a networking event. Recently I even read about one that takes place on a Sunday.
The email said ‘Paul – get out of bed and get Networking’. If it involved a pair of tracksuit bottoms, a full English, a copy of the Observer and highlights from the weekend's football I may be tempted.
Although I imagine it will be the same old set up, with the usual suspects in attendance including those people that you are almost embarrassed to see as they’re at every event, because there is no fit between you and them and the conversation is difficult. You shake his hand, ask the standard opener… ‘so how’s business?’ and indulge in some generic chat about great things are going and how there seems to be a lot of good contacts in the room!
However breakfast events, lunch events, late afternoon events, evening events are full, up and down the country. So are all of these people genuinely getting lots of business from these? Or do they see it as a few hours away from the office? Of course some people must be benefiting, I have grabbed some good leads in the past myself, but on the whole everyone is only interested in selling to you, not buying.
Events have progressed from 20 people in a room, to a 4 course dinner sat on a table of 8. Ok, I don’t want to eat in front of strangers and talk at the same time. Also I am in a room of 100 people and I can only talk to 7. £35 later and I’ve spoken to an accountant, a solicitor, 3 people from the same business and was bored to tears by a guy doing a 10 minute speech about renewable energy sources. Not even a sniff of a lead.
It really can work though. As I am writing this blog there are 50 people sipping coffee in a hotel conference room, all talking about the weather and what events they’ve been to recently. No doubt one of them will leave having arranged a meeting with someone that will become a client/supplier etc. So should I persevere? Will that big deal come off the back of me meeting someone next week? We can never know in advance obviously it is literally a numbers game. Talk to as many people as you can, be patient and eventually, maybe all of the effort will pay off.
In summary I would say that for it to work for you, you need to be ‘in’ with the regulars. Some of the events are all very Masonic and if you can commit to attending the same events regularly you will succeed. But if you think you can turn up now and again when you can be bothered it’s not going to be worth it.  Like a lot of marketing initiatives the long term benefits are definitely there for you. Short term all you’ll get is a full belly and a pocket full of irrelevant business cards.

Posted by Paul Latham

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