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How To Escape Networking Hell.

December 11, 2008

Stop networking, now. It’s a waste of time and here’s why:

When you go to one of those networking evenings here’s some pointers to keep in mind. If you look around the room and can pick more than half a dozen insurance people, financial consultants, and/or bankers you’re probably wasting your time. These are the ones with the sober-looking business cards and who talk to you whilst looking over your shoulder to see if they aren’t going to lose the opportunity to talk to someone richer. You don’t really understand what they do because they want you to talk to know what you do as quickly as possible to see if they can insure you, restructure your loans, invest for you, or basically scalp some bucks out of your business somehow.

If you can pick more than half a dozen
“vaguely freaked out but trying to put on their best winning smiles” people these are the ones who have just started their businesses and could be interesting to talk to but are there to sell at all costs and right now. They will tell you everything about their new babies whilst almost gripping your forearm and expect you to make an appointment the following Monday. They will ask nothing about your business unless it is directly connected with their business.

If you spot a half a dozen people circulating who talk, laugh, and slap the backs of everyone these ones are the organizers and are a waste of time because they have already sold their networking night and are giving the impression that you have joined the privileged inner circle of their business contacts. You haven’t. You are just an entry fee.

If you see people grouped in threes these are the people who know each other already. They work together, play squash together, drink together, their partners know each other etc. In short they know each other and they talk in tightly formed circles. If you want to do something funny go up to one of these cells and introduce yourself. They will look at you like you are from a different planet, not really know what to do, smile politely and wait for someone else to speak. Result is no one speaks.

The above group can look like normal people who may be prepared for some serious conversation and connection because from time to time they send out drones to bring back supplies who will oscillate between the drinks and the food then back to the group. These individuals may appear ready for some interaction but don’t be fooled. They are on a mission for the group and will be even more closed to any social interaction.

If someone starts to talk to you about their small business and how tough it is to pay all the taxes say you have to go to the toilet and leave. The time you will waste listening to someone whining about their situation is far more excruciating than the living with the lie you have just told them.

So who is left? You. And let’s face it you could have networked with yourself at home.

Of course, this is the bleakest form of networking. There are many ways in which to make yourself known which are fantastic. You will make more real and interesting contacts speaking with someone at the coffee break of a conference than you would with a year subscription to the above “networking nights”. You will meet more people by taking your dog to obedience classes, by taking your kids to school, by talking with the chef in the restaurant you just ate in, by offering to help in some community group…Networking is communicating and making connections with people. It’s the first steps in a process which may lead to a climate of trust. It’s not just “pressing the flesh” or “schmoozing“.

Be active. Be the hub of your own wheel and you will get there.

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