When I first started attending business networking events, I was inclined to show up on the later side. If it was a luncheon with open networking from 11:30-12:00, then I liked to saunter in at, oh, say 11:50. I figured that if there was already a roomful of conversations in full swing, I could just look for stragglers and talk to them for a few minutes while waiting for the program to start. Well, guess what? The stragglers were excluded from the other conversations for a reason: they made networking all about them, they were painfully shy, or they just didn’t want to connect. Basically, they were the dregs of the event, and after a while that became quite obvious to me!
Although I don’t think of myself as a particularly introverted person, I think the reason that my initial networking strategy was to, well, avoid the whole networking part of it, was because it’s sort of an awkward situation. While I will sometimes have lengthy conversations with total strangers at the bank, networking can sometimes feel forced, which is why I didn’t want to be in the middle of it for all that much time.
Anyhow, at the outset I was networking, but I really wasn’t doing it right. That is until I had an event that I knew I would have to leave a bit early, so I decided to get there right when it began (I had to get my money’s worth). Walking in, I was one of only about a dozen people there, many of whom were our chamber of commerce’s “ambassadors,” one of whom immediately greeted me and introduced me to everyone else in the room. It made starting conversations so easy! And because the room wasn’t packed, it was also easier to continue those chats – I could actually hear what my new contact was saying.
Ever since that event, I’ve found that my networking efforts are much more successful if I show up promptly. Being late to a networking event isn’t fashionable, it’s a waste of time!