Monday, July 13, 2009

What Makes a Good Networking Event?

I've been to quite a lot of networking events recently and with the current economic situation there seems to be more and more events springing up. Some of these events have been really good and some really poor, and I've begun to understand the patterns that determine which is which.

For me, big turn ons are:
  • Ice breakers - whether that is a buffet breakfast with tables to sit around, or 'matchmakers' to introduce people, or whatever.
  • Good speakers, short and to the point with plenty of time for questions/debate.
  • Panel sessions where the panelists have differing views - I find argument stimulating.
  • A mixture of business and tech people - it's nice to talk to peers, but even more interesting to mix people up.
  • Presenters who stick around to engage with the group.
  • Alcohol (but not too much) - perhaps even the chance to retire to a good bar after the event and carry on the conversation.
  • A good setting.
Big turn offs are:
  • Pre-arranged face-to-face meetings - people just trying to sell things to each other.
  • Speed networking - see above.
  • Being talked at by the sponsor for the whole duration - not really networking then is it?
  • Lack of basic refreshments - I'm not talking food here, simply tea, coffee, and water.
  • Long presentations.
  • High ticket cost - means the event is likely rubbish (not talking conferences here, of course).
  • Business referral groups - 'nuff said.
Can there be improvements? I think so. If you look at Supermondays, for example, they're making great use of online tools like Eventbrite and Twitter that mean you can prepare much better for your networking sessions. Obviously, being a high tech group that's to be expected, but I'm sure this stuff will roll out to the rest of the world, hopefully sooner rather than later. My message to networkers is to get your on-line profile accurate and up to date, and link to it (perhaps rather than your corporate website) when you book the event. I'm sure that way you should have more interesting and productive conversations.

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