I’ve been to a lot of events lately, a couple that we have sponsored or exhibited at, but mostly the lower key “networking” style events where a group of like-minded people get together for a talk or two on an interesting topic and a low key chat. Networking events can be very daunting, walking into a room full of strangers and having to start conversations is tough and it’s really not helped by some of the people that you come across. My list below covers the types of people I have encountered over the years:
The Me, Me, Me – The taker, the talker, the person who has no interest in anything other than the sound of their own voice and will (if you are unlucky enough to get stuck with them) launch into a monologue about themselves and their opinions on everything under the sun. This person has never asked a question about anyone else in their life and is so thick skinned that you could literally tell them to b*gger off and bore someone else and they would smile and tell you their opinion on something else – best avoided!
The Office Night Out – 4 or more people from the same business that have no real interest in anyone else, they are there for the free booze or because they were told to network. An intimidating group to approach, you can go in and talk to them, but the conversation will swiftly turn to a discussion about whether Pete in sales actually slept with Sarah from accounts at the last office party.
The Collector – This is the person that has a hunger for business cards, nothing makes them happier than to go into work the next morning with a big stack of business cards that they can show their boss, the more important the job title on the card, the happier they are. The Collector has no interest in who you are - they just want your card. Thankfully they are easy to get rid of by handing over the card that they crave – just don’t be offended when you see them look at it and roll their eyes if you don’t seem important enough.
The Over-Your-Shoulder – Gushy, excited and all about the first impression, will start out interested but unless you give the impression you are of use to them, they will start to scan the room for someone better. As you talk the room-scanning will get more and more blatant until (thankfully) they will make a thin excuse and rush off to their next victim.
The Qualifier – Will start by asking your job title, if that’s exciting enough, will continue to ask questions that help them qualify you as a sales lead, (being asked about your budget at a networking event can be quite strange). Feels like they are interested but will eventually result in a sales pitch if you fit the bill!
The Closer – This is the person you nearly did business with once, but it didn’t work out. They now stalk you to every event you go to, singling you out as you walk into the room and making a beeline for you. Expect a rundown on new reasons to buy that have surfaced since you last met.
The Wallflower – It’s unfair to lump these people in with the assorted people above, I suspect we have all been there at one time or other. Shy and doesn’t really want to be there, quite often interesting to talk to once you get started but it can be awkward to walk away and leave them alone.
The Decent chat – I have painted a pretty horrific picture with the people above, very few of them will lead to an interesting conversation! Thankfully the majority of people you meet are capable of having a decent chat, aware that a networking evening is not a sales pitch or a chance to give a lecture about your opinions to a willing audience, and as such you can have a decent discussion.
The last word – Networking is not about the sales pitch, it’s not about forcing your views on an unwilling audience, it’s not about collecting business cards or stalking people you want to sell to. It comes down to chatting to like-minded people in a less formal atmosphere. You ask about them, they ask about you – there may be some interest in a business conversation, but why not arrange to do that another time! If you go to a networking evening looking for nothing but sales opportunities, it’s likely you will come back with nothing at all. If you go looking for a decent chat with someone interesting, you never know what might happen…