I guess I need to start with a list of things that events get really badly wrong to start to illustrate my answer:
That all pervading smell of cheap coffee (you know they say that the smell of freshly made ground coffee its one of the best ways to sell a house? Well one of the best ways to ruin any event is that cheap coffee smell that seems to get into the very pores of the people who have been there all day!)
Stale pastries (if you say breakfast mean it please - I don't want yesterdays paying customers left-over's, really!)
The local 'cartel' of welcoming /unwelcoming networkers in prominent positions trying to suss out if you will be competition for them (I really hate this - I think that networking can be one of the key celebrations of local business communities but when people are cold shouldered or not engaged with as they might be competition for one of the organisers or long term group members the whole thing falls very sourly short of anything valid)
Badges that you cannot read from a distance (avoids the need to waste time talking to people who you will never do business with and that awkward staring at people's chest close up thing..)
People trying to sell stuff to you before they even know your name (robot salesman who have been taught their pitch word for word and sent to the event to get some 'hot leads', crass and uninteresting and always slightly awkward for everyone involved isn't it?)
Forced 'elevator' pitches (people project their brand, personality and ability to connect in different ways. I know there needs to be a way for people to get started but please find a better way as this is usually excruciating)
Organisers with agenda's that are eventually obvious and nothing to do with how they got you to attend ( I equate this to that horrible realisation that you have been conned into a time-share presentation / sales promotion event thinking you were attending a tapas evening. Authenticity is a must for engagement and for people to not feel you have wasted their time. This sort of thing is never forgotten.)
Events that don't know if they are for business or social purposes (this is one of my pet issues with networking events; is the event an excuse for a loose social gathering with a bit of business thrown in or is it a genuine opportunity to promote your business, services and self?)
So you will have gathered that I have issues with how networking events are conceived and delivered. I am really not knocking those that try to get something started and have the right intentions but to get this kind of thing right is really quite skilled; a cup of coffee, a suitably sized room and a few dozen people does not a networking event make.
I love the events where there is both a purpose for attending and an opportunity to network in a natural, relaxed and professional way.
I enjoy meeting people that have lots of interesting, diverse and exciting things to say about themselves and their business and I listen to people who have the ability to project and connect and who know when to move on.
Networking can be a joy (if that is the right word) when it does not feel forced or hard work.
Some of my best clients and biggest projects have been acquired / earned or initiated through simple one to one conversation in a great environment that has been thoughtfully and intelligently created.
That's all - not difficult....
Paul Goring 2014
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