The networking equivalent to the dating line “they have a great personality” is “this is an excellent event for networking”.
There are dozens of meetings that you can attend a month (associations, professional groups, non-profit fundraisers, rotary clubs, etc.). Not every meeting is created equal when it comes to networking.
Just because there is a large group of people you do not know, does not mean it’s a good networking gig. Many people go to see people they know and gather in small groups during the social hour to catch up.
If you break into the group, after introductions, they are back to their prior conversation. So you pretend your drink needs to be freshened up and mosey along. You bounce around the small groups and maybe score a business card or two.
You sit through the dinner. Mmmm, Mmmm , twice baked potatoes. Listen to the speaker then go home. Man, that meeting sucked.
So here’s how to avoid it:
1. Ask around before you decide to go. See if any of your colleagues have gone to this meeting before and get their opinion on the networking quality.
2. Get a host. Have someone who is a member of the group to escort you around and make introductions. This does not have to be a lifelong friend, just someone you know well enough that they won’t ditch you after 5 minutes.
3. Skip the meetings with limited networking time. If there is limited time, then that limits your networking with the people at your table – which is realistically four people. Two to your right, two to your left – they are the only ones you can carry on a conversation without shouting.