The networking nightmare: that guy who thrusts his business card into your hand and without taking breath is off and running into a rehearsed pitch.

So why get out there?

There are times when you need to get out of your office that there’s nothing better than a local event. Other than that, I can think of three ways events add enough value to offset the cost of time and attention.

Three kinds of value

1. Help me do my job better, or … to go faster by thinking together

Good groups have lots of smart people who can help me do my job better. I’m not looking to outsource, just buff up my thinking. I like events full of expertise, support and feedback from fellow travellers as I explore how best to do my work.

2. Help me do more than I can do on my own, or … to go further by acting together

It’s aways a struggle to find bolt-on help at the exact time you need it. I’m always looking for people to know today so I can get help if I need it tomorrow. I think it’s worth investing time now if it gives me a short-cut to expertise and capacity in the future. I look for events that provide a way to meet like minded experts in complimentary fields so I can scale up when I need to.

3. Help me find customers, or … to do more and build business

This one’s not for me but it can’t be ignored. A lot of people treat events as business development.

In general, we buy from people we know, like and trust. Events can help with getting known, but being liked and trusted takes more than a five minute conversation and a business card bombing run. If sales is your plan, realise that building trust takes time so be prepared to first add value to the group and commit for the long term.

The payoff

Walk away from talking shops, and forget selling. Networking is a way of making connections with and between interesting people who may be useful – not for today but maybe tomorrow.

Skippy Strategy: Set some rules that help the decision about which events to go for, and which to strike off the hot list. Mine are pretty simple:

  • Service providers don’t outnumber potential service users.
  • A specific common interest that gets these people in a room together.
  • I’m not interested in a talking shop where platitudes are chewed and everyone rides their favourite hobby-horse.
  • The people in the room are half decent humans that I don’t mind sharing coffee with.
  • The coffee is good.