When you move to a new place and want to get the gist of how people tick, attending networking evenings is a great place to start. These evenings are centred around hobbies, business hacks, digital marketing trends, product launches or brainstorming activities for certain communities. I can personally vouch for the usefulness of such events, since I’ve had professional assignments come about as a result of networking. They can also help you build your own tribe, especially if you do your homework and pick a good field to graze on.
Networking events can revolve around insightful panel discussions or workshops. But on the flip side they could also be insidious sales pitches.
Regardless of what type of event it is, the meat to reckon with is the people who fill the room. The crowd determines whether the event was worth that $50 Uber ride which took you 2 hours swimming through thick traffic (in the worst case scenario). The key is finding the right strangers to spend your evening with. By avoiding those who fit the following profiles, you can pretty much guarantee a successful networking session:
We love confident people who are enthusiastic and upfront enough to introduce themselves to everyone who enters a room. It’s great to get a full account of what they do, their interests, beliefs, opportunities they’re after…but then when it veers off into how successful they have been at every juncture of their life, what they like to do on weekends, how they like their coffees, where they went on their last holiday, the massage they got while being on holiday, what they ate…. it means that you’re entering the danger zone.
People who only want to talk about themselves and don’t leave you any room to contribute can be real hazards, especially if you meet them at the start of an event. They could mean well and come across as fascinating, but they’re uninterested in forging good relationships. In order to know if a someone is valuable to you (emotionally or professionally) you must seek their input. This is nothing but common sense. So, if you meet a person who doesn’t posses this basic nugget – nod, smile and go get a drink. Run away.
A sub category of the above, insecure vultures are those who seek out promising individuals and work tactically to crush their hopes and dreams. All it takes is for them to ask you what you wish to do in life – and this gives them enough fodder to begin their BS. They will tell you that the market is extremely competitive for people in your field, warn you about how difficult it is to even break through in the first place and then advise you to keep your expectations low. There is absolutely no truth in any of this. Sure, the world is a competitive place but there are always opportunities for skilled people.
In a new city? Same here. Attending a networking event to see what’s happening? Awesome, me too. Don’t know what the hell is going? Okay. Don’t really want to talk about anything? This is awkward. Just feel like smiling and staring at others? Even more awkward.
You may ask yourself why people sign up for events when they don’t really want to be a part of it. This is a great question. I have no idea what drives such people. Strangely enough, I have often spotted them at multiple events. They’re like serial attendees who don’t give a crap about anything! Being in a crowd of wishy-washy thinkers will not help you grow in anyway. Sometimes it’s easy to hang out with such folks; their relaxed vibes and non-demanding demeanour can take the edge off. But why settle into your comfort zone at the cost of making dull connections?
Without sounding pompous, I must add this category of networkers simply because I’ve observed many and can easily sniff them out the moment I enter a room. They are women or men who are out to get their eye candy and do this in sneaky ways such as standing around well-presented people and picking out their ‘targets’. When they secure their prey, they begin conversing with them while flooding them with ‘signals’. These usually include clinking of drink glasses (at this stage I get the game and walk away), winking, giving a playful pats on the arm while laughing and staring intensely at you without saying anything.
Even if you’re not the object of such people’s desires, you will recognise a Sleaze Bag by the way they pause during a conversation and scan someone from head to toe. Yes, these people exist. No, there isn’t any point in socialising with them. Nod, smile (actually don’t smile at all) and walk away.
Usually Sleaze Bags depend on alcohol to fuel their tenacity, but there are also others who need that extra boozy encouragement during a networking event. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. It just sucks when a person you actually want to talk to, is off their face. This may happen towards the end of an evening, after you’ve sussed out the crowd or even heard them on a panel discussion. If the person is a speaker, make sure to get their attention immediately after they get off stage. On the other hand, they could be someone you’ve been hearing about from others all evening and finally get the opportunity to have a one-on-one. If they are tipsy and you doubt their ability to remember you, making them your LinkedIn connection should be your #1 goal.
Now, if they’re someone who isn’t influential and hasn’t been stable enough to tell you about themselves in a coherent fashion, walk away. This is someone you could avoid till fate brings you together in a place where getting drunk isn’t an option.
Lastly, Connection Hoarders
Alternatively, you should also steer clear (or expect nothing) of people who just want to add you on LinkedIn without any real introduction or conversation. You should avoid being this person too. Value social networks by using them for what they were destined to be.
For The Journey Ahead
Reading through this list may leave you feeling a little shaky about your networking ventures. Rest assure that these examples are rare, and that the majority of attendees are looking to mingle for noble reasons. If you spot certain signs of negativity in someone, don’t hesitate to smile and turn around for a fresh start. The time you get at networking events is too short to bear the weight of those who don’t add any value. You should focus your attention on like minded folks who will keep you in good spirits and fill you with hopes of collaborating or socialising with them in the future. For a checklist on the traits to see in people you should network with, stay tuned for my next article…