I spent a lot of my last years in university networking with anyone and everything that I thought might be able to give me a job. Now that I am a bit older and have some experience under my feet I pick and choose which events I go to based on if I feel I will benefit from the information at an event and who will be in the room.
I think at this point we can all agree that networking opens doors, creates relationships and can lead to fantastic opportunities. While networking I have met thought leaders in marketing, my current business partner Ross, and even had the chance to break bread with some of the most influential VC’s in North America (and had one of them buy me a plate of bacon). If you aren’t networking and networking correctly you are missing out on opportunity.
While any entrepreneur will benefit from networking it is really easy to fall into the habit of networking without thinking about why you are doing it, here are the 4 questions I ask myself before I head to an event, 4 questions that you should consider asking yourself.
Question #1: Am I networking all my time away?
I have been guilty of this in the past, I have gone to a networking event that I knew had little value and after I felt like I had wasted my time.Before you go to any networking event you should take a step back and consider why you are networking? What is the benefit to you going to this event, do I have something more important to be working on?
No matter what stage in your business you are at you always have things you need to do. If you are just starting out you need to be working and building your business. If you think that once you have a team you are free to become a “conference ho” just remember that a ship still needs a captain. Mark Suster points this out his famous Conference Ho blog post; “Leadership abhors a vacuum.” If you are not present as a leader then your team could end up sailing in the wrong direction.
The simple fact is that you are limited by the hours in the day, you can skip things and you can optimize but 2 hours of lost time at a networking event is 2 hours you will be hard pressed to recover.
Question #2: Is there someone important in the room?
I recently had the opportunity to watch, and later meet, Paul Singh, the founder of disruption corp and previously a partner at 500 Startups. Paul made a great point and that is (sorry if I get this wrong):
“As entrepreneurs your job is not to network – it is to create, really you should only be networking if I am here”.
Now the point I took from this was that my job is to be busy creating something that could change the world, or generate revenue for myself and any other concerned parties, if networking isn’t going to help that then I should go, I need to know who is going to be in that room, are they someone I need to talk to, could they give me funding or exposure?
Question #3: Will I learn anything at this event?
Is there an information session or is it a learning based event and if so is it actually something I need to learn right now? I love learning, from online classes to information sessions and workshops, I enjoy new skills and information but I have to ask myself do I need to learn this and if so, do I need to learn this right now? I may need to know how to work with WooCommerce and set up a storefront, but do I need to know that now or is it more pressing to be working on creating visual content?
Identify if the event will open your mind to a new topic or subject that would benefit your work, don’t look for events that cover what you are already an expert in, it might feel good to be the smartest guy in the room, but that just means you are in the wrong room.
Question #4: Do I need to be seen at this event?
If I haven’t gone to a networking event in a few months I will go to an event I know will be packed, you are in many ways, your reputation and you should do things to maintain that. If a VC or guest speaker has already heard of you and heard good things than it can make a world of difference in the interaction.
You can blog, tweet, instagram as much as you want and these are great techniques for building a name but nothing works as well as physically being in a room with other people. You will get to know people, talk about your work, build rapport at a much quicker rate in one night than in countless tweets. One night can help to build and maintain a reputation and so if you haven’t been at an event for awhile, you may want to head out to one just to kiss hands and shake babies.
Have your own reasons for networking? Think I missed one? Let us know in the comments!