You will probably know how it feels when you hear or see the word ‘networking’ attached to event agendas, and your heart drops. Why is that? Why haven’t we really mastered the art of effective networking in our business lives yet?
I confess that I have been to lots of networking events and all too often they turn out to be a real let down for one reason or another. Be that as a result of bad planning, organising, or the mix of attendees in the room that just don’t resonate in any way with you. Then of course it could also be that you are not actually really in the mood to mix with complete strangers over a glass of wine, when you could think of 101 other things that you could otherwise be doing with your time after work.
But stop and think.
How many times have you been to a networking event (usually ones where you are surrounded by like minded peers), where the conversation flow is easy, natural and interesting, and you come away feeling positive, upbeat, and with a pocket full of nuggets of information that have been shared with you during the course of the event?
Well that happened to me again only last night.
A lot of the time we are quite conventional in our thinking about doing business ie that it should be through diarised meetings with specific people, for a specific purpose. But in reality so much (possibly more) business can and is achieved in an informal way.
Question: How many times have you gone to a coffee bar for a quick coffee by yourself and overheard a couple of people at the table next to you casually discussing business and associated opportunities? How many times have you been to a restaurant or bar and seen or heard the same thing happening?
All too often we become so entrenched in our busy daily working lives that we don’t see what else is going on around us. We forget how positive it feels to share a problem with a peer and receive a helpful solution based response back. Or to hear about interesting and exciting things that are happening to other people, and how they can spur us on to drive ourselves in a better or different direction. Ultimately, I think that we often forget how powerful peer discussion and support can be to us in our daily lives.
We should embrace the word networking, not shy away from it. Approached with the right mindset, in the right setting, and with the right peers, people can find solutions and support large enough to move mountains and overcome anything.
Whether that means that we need to give networking a different name - something that appeals to our senses more, to encourage us to open up to the opportunities, I don’t know. That would be for you to decide for yourself, maybe: ‘coffee chat, drinks, lunch’ – take your pick. It’s what works for you as an individual that counts.
At Armshaw Associates we have been talking about organising informal networking events for peers for about a year. And like lots of other people, have been too busy to raise our heads and get them going. Well last night was the kick that was needed, and the first one is being organised as we speak. And yes before you ask, in my own head I’m classing it as a friendly ‘drink’.
So come on. Let’s be brave and start ‘circulating’ more. There are so many opportunities out there - we just need to grasp them with both hands.