We all know the familiar anxiety and awkwardness of attending networking events, but in this…
Why Networking Events Are No Place for Speed Daters
Have you ever introduced yourself to someone at a networking event only to find them looking over your shoulder within a few minutes of meeting?
Sometimes the behaviour is so obvious that I’ve found myself ending conversations abruptly by saying, “I can see you’d like to be somewhere else. Nice to meet you, enjoy your morning.”
In my experience, the way people approach these events is a good indication of how they’ll do business, and I’ve observed two distinct networking species whose descriptions are best read in the voice of David Attenborough.
The ‘speed dater’.
The ‘speed dater’ talks rapidly; introducing themselves and launching into a well-rehearsed pitch that reveals the information they consider important. It is generally followed by a sharp redirection in the form of a question such as, “So, what do you do?” While listening to the response, the speed dater relies heavily on its ability to detect within moments if any relationship between the two is viable. This determination is conveyed to the other party by sharp nods of the head (to hasten the end of their sentence), disinterested glances over the shoulder of the party speaking, or an abrupt departure from the conversation. The speed dater moves from subject to subject repeating the same methods of engagement and elimination until they find what they believe to be a compatible mate.
The ‘relationship builder’.
The ‘relationship builder’ is a unique creature; warmer in their approach and less focused on the pursuit of prey. They share similar traits to the ‘speed dater’ in that they are quite capable of conducting a 60-second pitch, but choose instead to have an interactive conversation with those they meet. This might start with comments about the speaker, the food or any number of socially acceptable topics. The goal of the ‘relationship builder’ is to find members of the same species, with whom they can remain in contact. They see value in ‘relationship’, rather than ‘usefulness’, and appreciate that while no immediate return on investment may be evident, the similarities in approach to business, relationships and life, in general, will undoubtedly lead to future opportunities.
Why are these differences important?
The problem with speed dating at a networking event is no different to using the practice in real life. While two people may have complimentary star signs, a similar taste in music and subscriptions to likeminded magazines, a match is often presumed before their core values have even been canvased. The result could be a stroke of luck or completely fruitless.
Personally, I’d rather leave a function with one or two contacts I’ve enjoyed making, than having a dozen phone numbers based on a superficial exchange. I’d like to think that my presence in a room full of people is able to achieve more than email extracting software. If I’ve taken the time to attend, I want to invest in conversations that reveal more about someone than their company website.
Rather than gather contacts, I’d prefer to make connections. While ‘contacts’ are fraught with uncertainty, ‘connections’ based on similar values or pivotal views can lead to multifaceted relationships. These types of connections develop over time and have the capacity to span a range of projects rather than just the latest initiative.
Now I know that not everyone attends networking events for the same reason. Some people really do just want to gather business cards and follow up later with their proven five-step email system. But others are looking for something more.
Understanding the differences between these two species is the key to ensuring you walk away from a networking opportunity with the right types of connections.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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