Column: Missing the finish line at the networking event
Photo by Dru Bloomfield
I failed as a networker.
Oh, it's not as bad as all that. I've said before that I'm not perfect. This was just one more example of that.
Not long ago I attended one of my favorite networking events. This is one of those ones that's just chock-a-block full of good information (which will help me succeed in my business and personal life) and good people (who pretty much do the same thing). This time, though, I walked out disappointed.
Oh, not because of any problem with the event. No, for me, I was disappointed because I didn't complete the networking goal that I set for myself before I walked in the door.
This is going to happen to everyone occasionally. It's still better to set the goal and miss it than not set it at all. If it happens a lot, though, especially with a specific event that you attend on a regular basis, it's time to ask some questions to make sure that you aren't wasting your time.
- Does it happen often? Do you meet your goals most of the time and this was just the one instance where it didn't work out? Or does this happen all the time? If it's the former, then don't worry too much. If it's the latter, then it bears closer scrutiny.
- Was it you? Sometimes, as in my case, we just aren't staying focused and doing what we know we are supposed to do in order to complete that goal. My goal was to meet two new people and get their business cards so we could get together later. There were definitely new people at the event, but I ended up talking with people I already knew.
- Was it the goal? This is something that happens to new networkers all the time. They set their goals a little too high and end up failing just because they don't yet have the skills to reach that far. I know a few people who can set a goal to meet at least five new people and make a substantive connection. For me, if I tried to do that, I would feel like a failure more often than not.
- Was it the event? Was the goal appropriate for the event? If you want to meet new people and the event doesn't attract that many, then you either need a new goal or a new event.
- Why did you start attending this gathering? Is that reason still valid? Maybe your needs have changed. Maybe the event has changed. Either way, maybe it's time to consider pulling back on your attendance. Before you do though, ask yourself...
- Are there other compelling reasons to continue attending? Maybe the group has become an excellent social outlet for you. Perhaps every time you show up, you walk out with business in your pocket. Maybe you just like the snacks. If you do decide that this group is still worth it, then you need also to decide how you can change your networking goals to better fit your expectations of the group.
- Are you doing your part? Even if you decide to stay (but definitely before you decide to leave), you have to ask yourself if you've done everything you can to help the event organizers. Have you spread the word about what a great opportunity it is? Have you invited any guests personally? Have you offered to help plan and run the event? Make yourself part of the solution before you make yourself scarce.
In networking, as with most parts of life, when things aren't going as planned, then it's time to start asking some good questions. Sometimes the answers will confirm that we are doing the right thing at the right time and might just need to tweak our technique a little; or they might lead us to drastic change that completely upends the way we go about our lives.
Whether it's one end of this spectrum or the other or someplace in between, our success as networkers will be dependent on how well and how often we ask those questions.