When I was younger and in my first “professional job” I would often attend networking events with my older, more experienced co-workers.
We would leave the office together. Carpool to the events. And for the most part talk to only each other when we arrived.
We walked in, some in our group knew others so there were one or two introductions, and then we found our own little corner in the room where the group could sit down and…talk.
From there we spent most of the night, at our table and in our group, talking about various items aka office politics aka gossip.
When random people would approach us we would be attentive at first and listen to their pitch only to give them a courteous send of.
After all…we were too busy to meet someone new at a networking event right?
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that’s what I once thought networking was about. We treated it like a happy hour. We used it as a time to socialize (with people we were already well acquainted with) and not as an opportunity to grow our network and our commissions.
From what I understand many people use networking events in this same manner. A group of work-friends going out and having a great social time.
And not to say you can’t have a great time while networking. But the main focus, especially as a sales person, should be about networking and not purely socializing.
Below I’ve listed three reasons why it might be or it might not be OK to attend networking events with co-workers. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Networking With Co-Workers Is OK
There are a few reason I’d consider it a good practice to attend networking events with your co-workers. Although keep in mind that for the below mentioned reasons there are equally good reasons (extremely similar reasons) why it may not be a good reason.
- You’re more likely to meet new people
Its very possible you do not know every single person at a networking event. Perhaps there is someone that one of your co-workers know that you don’t know. Although this may not necessarily help your business network, it can definitely help your personal network.
- You’ll have multiple subject matter experts
When I wrote the post about the best trade show giveaways it was because I had recently attended a major trade show. Besides myself, we had a bunch of subject matter experts who were capable of explaining the benefits of our software well beyond my limited experience. Heck, even if I’d been with my current company for 10 years they still would have beat me.
When you attend networking events or trade shows, and you bring along real subject matter experts, you have the opportunity to make your product shine in a way that you couldn’t possibly do on your own.
- Moral support
Networking events can be intimidating at times. Especially if you’re new to sales, new to networking, or new to your industry. Attending with co-workers can provide you with the small amount of courage needed to be successful. But don’t fall into the trap that I first did. Be mindful that they are there for support, not socializing.
Networking With Co-Workers Is Not OK
Although the above reasons are sound and provide ample reason to attend a networking event with co-workers there are mirrored reasons why it may not be a good idea.
- You’re less likely to meet new people
If the co-worker(s) that are with you are more into socializing than networking then you are much less likely to meet new people. Especially if the group is like the one I use to network with.
- You’ll get distracted easier
If your co-workers consider networking events as social hour then it is probably best for you to leave them at the office. If they are not into the scene then they will cling to you in the hopes of keeping them occipied. All this does is distract you.
- Larger groups are more intimidating
As a guy (when I was single) one of the most intimidating situations was walking up to a group of girls to introduce myself. That is a natural reaction when approaching a group of people you don’t know. Some are able to bypass that feeling, I am not one of them. And if I have guess; you are not either since most people aren’t. If you are part of a large group then it is much less likely that someone will come up to introduce themselves in the attempt of networking.
As mentioned in the beginning story I have been a culprit of making all of these networking mistakes. I’m not perfect now and I surely wasn’t 10 years ago.
But gravitating towards people you know in unfamiliar situations is a natural part of our psychology. What’s great about recognizing that is that you can take steps to control the situation and make it less likely that you will make these mistakes.
So let me ask you. Have you done the same thing? Have you ever attended a networking event without doing any real networking?
~ Johnny Bravo
Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net