Those of us who love assisting to networking events know about the perks and perils of such meetings. These events can be really good for you (and your company) if chosen right, and a frustrating, wasteful experience if not.
Truth be told, choosing the appropriate event is not always easy. In addition to the waves of email promoting a countless amount of different events, there are other aspects – disproportionate media coverage, friend’s recommendations, brand new trends and topics – that end up making the decision process definitely harder than it should be. Well, one of our mottos for this new year is to make things easier, and that’s why we’ve compiled this short (but useful) guide covering the basic of networking:
- Core interests vs. peripheral pursuits
Many people fall for novelty just for the sake of novelty. For example, Burning Man has managed to attract the young crowds of Silicon Valley’s startup scene in its past editions and attempts to rebrand it as a prime networking event are sprouting on because of this. However, that fact alone does not mean that Burning Man is for everyone wishing to expand their contact network. Choosing the right demands analysis: thinking about the results that any given even is supposed to produce within our companies and lines of work is a good place to start. Also, when talking about results, we don’t exclusively mean ROI: we think of results as meeting the right people from the right industry.
So, the first thing to do when searching for the right event is to look at your professional self and separate the core interests (getting to know fellow professionals, for example) from the peripheral pursuits – that is, those that are cool but undefined, with no visible impact on our business.
Unless your events of choice take place in the area you live in, budgeting is key. In addition to registration fees, there are many other items to check – and doing so in advance can save you a lot of money. A shortlist should include:
- Airplane tickets: compare the fares to those of other events you’d like to attend. In every case, try to book – if possible – months in advance.
- Hotels & accommodation: always check with the event organizers if there are any special deals for attendees. Furthermore, you’ll likely meet other attendees at the hotel, which expands your networking opportunities by a factor.
- Travel expenses: This may vary a lot depending on the location of the event. Some cities are more expensive than others. In addition, some cities have more things to do than others – whether it’s a museum, a tour or a particular set of activities, attending will require a few extra dollars.
- Indirect expenses: things like new clothes, gifts and transport add up to the budget in significant ways.
- Situation planning. This comprises things like polishing your pitches, working on your weak points and developing material to share with others. It’s also about expectations: let’s suppose that the expected results, for any reason, fail to appear. What can you get from the event in that case?
- Leaving room for the unexpected. Every plan should leave some space for things that aren’t on the agenda. Many great deals are closed after the formal event, perhaps in a bar while sharing drinks. That’s absolutely fine, though rarely planned.
While results are definitely important, planning should include broader goals. Picking a networking event is picking an experience, and even if things do not go exactly as planned, you should be able to envision what you’ll be getting from it.
These 4 pillars of networking are an introduction to higher, richer experiences. Since networking is a time and money-consuming effort, we thought it would nice to share some of our experience in the field – particularly the things we’ve learned from common mistakes. With the goal of being helpful, we’ve decided to start with the little things – for now, it’s all about budgets, plans and a bit of attitude. In the near future, however, we’ll go deeper into networking: this is supposed to be a great networking year, and we’d be thrilled to be joined by every reader out there.