Networking Events – Are They Even Worth Your Time?
It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.
You’ve heard it before, and there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Then again, it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.
If you’re like most people, the “who you know” philosophy means that success is dependent on meeting someone who is connected, influential, wealthy, or famous, and befriending them so that they help you out and open doors for you.
And if you’re like most people, you probably say “it’s all about who you know” with a sneer and more than a little bitterness.
It’s time to learn the truth.
When people who are successful in their fields use that same phrase, they’re talking about something entirely different than the people who use it as an excuse to never even try.
Success in business is accelerated by the number and quality of your connections with other people. If you want to achieve something that’s bigger than you, you’re going to need other people to do it.
The more people you know and maintain relationships with, then, the greater your chances of business success.
Relationships are key.
Not everyone needs to be your best friend, but at the same time, a number in your phone for someone you haven’t talked to since that one networking event isn’t much of a connection, either.
Master the art of the loose tie, and you’ll be in great shape.
But this post isn’t about forming relationships.
It’s about networking events.
So, let’s get to the big, all-important question, shall we?
Are Networking Events Worth Attending?
As always, this is a question with more than one answer. Pretty much any question related to growing your business is going to have an answer unique to you and your circumstances, so keep in mind that you’re reading a blog post written by a person that probably doesn’t know you. It’s your job to figure out what applies and what doesn’t.
Here’s a caution that applies to most of the people reading this post, though:
Going to networking events is uncomfortable. Meeting new people on purpose is scary. If the idea of going to a networking event and introducing yourself to slightly inebriated real estate agents and multi-level-marketers all night makes your butt clench in anxiety, that’s all the more reason to do it.
In fact, that’s the main reason you should attend a networking event!
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Meeting new people without totally weirding them out is a skill that most people don’t possess.
Seriously, have you ever met someone and they acted like an alien who read How to Win Friends and Influence People, but has never actually met a real person? They make awkward eye contact, give you a weird handshake, and say your name way too much, and you can tell that both of you are equally uncomfortable with this situation.
Now, you get to go be that person!
When we were kids, we loved talking to strangers and making new friends.
Then, grownups told us over and over that strangers are bad, that we don’t talk to people we don’t know, and that there’s danger in meeting new people.
From a young age, we’re taught to distrust anyone with whom we’re not already acquainted. Most people retain that distrust for the rest of their lives, long after we learn how to evaluate risk for ourselves. That makes it pretty difficult to get into the habit of meeting stranger on purpose.
Networking events are the perfect place to get over that crap.
At least monthly, go to some kind of event that’s full of people you don’t know, and by the time you leave, at least introduce yourself to everyone in the room.
It gets even more difficult when you’re going somewhere with the express purpose of networking to grow your business. When you have a reason that you want to meet people, you’ll be weird about it, and you’re going to be at least 3 times more uncomfortable.
Meeting people on purpose without giving them the impression that you’re acting like a slimeball is an important skill. Go learn it.
You Never Know Who You’re Going to Meet
This fact might make it easier – most of the people who go to networking events know even less about networking than you do, and precious little actual networking happens at networking events.
Odds are, you’re not going to head out to whatever patio bar is hosting the event, spend a couple hours handing out business cards, and come home with the phone number that’s going to change your whole life. Most of the time, you’re going to shake a lot of hands, hopefully remember some names, and likely get a couple of phone calls over the next few days from people who want to sell you makeup.
There are a few good networking events out there, and there are some people who actually know how to network. Until you hone your own skills, though, it’s not that important.
Even at your community chamber of commerce event where the same 8 people order the same happy hour drinks and talk about the same things every month, you can still make meaningful connections. I have some friends and some great business connections from events like these, so don’t dismiss them just because the vast majority of people in the room don’t give half a hoot about your business venture.
Honestly, the vast majority of people in the world don’t care a lick about you, your blog, or your success. You’re just shaking hands with the hope of meeting 1 or 2 people who do.
With reasonable expectations – that in a room of 100 people, there’s about a .05% chance of meeting the exact kind of connection you want – it’s easier to meet people.
Because you act less weird. Instead of trying to find someone that’s useful to you, you’re there to meet people for the sake of meeting them.
Cool things happen when you meet people regularly, too.
Here’s an example:
I met a brand new real estate investor (not something that matters to a blogger) who told me about another event he’d been to hosted by another networking group. That guy never showed up to another event, but I went to the other networking group and met a guy who makes a cool alcohol product (I don’t drink) and ended up maintaining a casual friendship with him. When he was shooting a demo video for his product, I came to show support, and I met the people at the production company he used for the video. More than a year later, I was able to take the video that the production company shot for my friend and turn that concept into a successful marketing campaign for one of my own clients.
I have lots of stories like that, because my mentor advised me again and again to go to networking events so I’d stop acting like a weirdo around strangers.
So, yes, even terrible networking events are worth your time.
If you’re willing to suck it up and meet people.
Before you go to a networking event – especially your first networking event – you should work on a couple of your people skills.
One of the most valuable, believe it or not, is simply the skill of remembering names.
This week, meet 1 new person and commit their name to memory. It’s easier than you think!
Here’s how to remember names:
- Repeat it back to them as soon as you hear it. I usually say it like a question to get them to nod, confirming I heard them correctly.
- Immediately connect their name to something else in your memory. Greg, for example, might remind you of someone you knew in college, or your friend’s cat, or a movie character.
- Use their name again as you talk.
- Say their name as you part ways. “It was nice to meet you, Greg!”
Trust me – if it’s important to you and you’re thinking about it, you’ll remember names. You’re not as hopeless as you think!