I hate networking events
I’m going to risk the ire of every business blogger and entrepreneur I know (and probably lots I don’t know but might just come to know because of this post.)
I hate networking events, organizations and gatherings that tout networking as a benefit or sole reason for their existence.
Now, I do not hate people, quite conversely, I enjoy people. One of the best hours one can spend is interacting with another human being, learning how they view life and how they have gotten where they are. Just hearing their story.
Networking events and all the advice on how to prepare for one, how to participate in them and how to follow up after them are just bunk.
Events where the focus is networking are fake
Take a bunch of business people and toss them in a room, give them a plastic glass of sweet tea or wine, and a cube of cheese and a HELLO MY NAME IS stick-on name tag and you’ve got a networking event. People are there (no matter how much they prepare) to get your business card and give you theirs. They rarely want to have substantial conversation or tell you their story, and if you do start in on an in-depth conversation, you get interrupted by someone else who wants to hand you their business card. And then what do you do with all those 3.5 x 2 inch pieces of paper anyway?
When what you crave is the backstory of someone’s life, motivations and worldview, networking events don’t cut it.
Host a celebration for friends and you’ve got a party, which is actually a networking event, but centered around fun, not networking. Volunteer to teach a class, cook soup in the soup kitchen or serve on a board of an organization and you’ll have new connections.
A few months ago a friend had a few of her new friends over to her house for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. While there, I met several people and learned how they came to choose Charleston as their home. In several cases, there were business intersections and in the natural course of conversation, we shared business cards. And discussed opportunities to work together. And none of it happened with a nametag or a fake intent to network.
If you want to make real connections which lead to an opportunity to do business together, be social. Go to parties, concerts, plays, art openings. Meet people. But for heaven’s sake don’t go to networking events.