Networking events; some people love them, some people hate them. From my experience, the expectations you have going in will determine how valuable an event will be for you.
Many people go into a networking event with the false belief that the goal is to sell their product or service. I bump into these people at events without fail. They walk up to me and give me their elevator pitch and then wait for my reaction. If I don't seem interested, they move on to the next person and throw their pitch. It feels like someone just grabbed me, slammed me against a billboard and then walked away. I am 99.9% certain that 99.9% of the people that do this fail 99.9% of the time.
It is funny to watch when two of these walking infomercials bump into each other. They both struggle to talk over the other while neither listens. Then they grudgingly take turns talking for the next 30 seconds, and then both turn away in disgust with that "What a waste of time" look on their face. ( I call these conversations "Herb Tarlek Showdowns" and have often considered taking side bets on who would stop pitching first.)
Networking events exist for the purpose of building your network, hence the name. Your network is the circle of people that exist around you. To have someone in your network, you need to have a relationship with them. Therefore, networking events are about building relationships!
Going into a networking event with the main goal of making some new relationships will lead to a much more productive and enjoyable time.
The way I do this is by thinking about the person I am talking to rather than what product or service they are representing. Instead of thinking, "How can I sell my service to this person?" I am thinking, "Who is this person and how can we fit into each others world?"
They may not be interested in my service and I may not be interested in theirs, but that doesn't mean there is no value in a relationship with them. I may be able to learn something from them that I would not have learned if I did not get into their world. They may introduce me to someone who is interested in my service. They may learn something from me that will help them in their world. Maybe you will eventually use each others services after building some trust over a few cups of coffee. Who knows, you may even be meeting your future spouse! (Unless you already have one. In that case it may be better not to shoot for that kind of thing at networking events.)
The point is to look at networking as "people meeting people" rather than "businesses pitching businesses".
You are a dynamic human being with a lot more to offer the world than just the product you sell. Every other person at that event is also a unique human being with interesting knowledge and stories. Connect with people on that level and truly discover what a networking event is about.
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