Old School Networking is Dead
Traditional, old school, networking is dead. Just like smoking pipes went out in the fifties and no one has a landline anymore, the idea of paying to be part of a networking group where you suffer through a boring morning meeting or sit in a room full of old geezers every Thursday at noon, is not something that is dying - it's dead. Can we get an “Amen”?
If you have tried this style of networking and absolutely hated it, there's a good chance that you wrote off networking for good, and understandably so. This style of networking has nothing to do with how people actually communicate or live their life. If you had to sit through a breakfast meeting every time you wanted to see your best friend, there's a good chance they would no longer be your best friend. If the only way to go on a date was to sit in a conference room every Thursday at noon, there's a good chance you would say “forget it”. Few people actually enjoy these types of interactions because they are incredibly unnatural and forced. They are typically based on a set of arbitrary rules, the conversations can be stilted, the room can be full of people you don't actually enjoy being with, and it can get expensive. All in all, this is not a recipe for success.
So what is?
First, you have to be somewhere that you enjoy. If you are somewhere that feels uncomfortable, you will be uncomfortable. An example of this would be a room that is very quiet or an atmosphere that requires you to meet certain expectations or behave in a rigid manner. It's far better to be in a setting where you can relax, feel at home, and generally enjoy yourself. This is why you can take the same group of people who might not say anything in a conference room but when you take them to a local sports bar, they tend to engage in lively conversation. In other words, the setting matters.
Next, you need to have a lot of people around you. Networking in small groups can be less effective because you are seeing the same people on a regular basis and you are counting on them to refer you to people who are in their personal network. By the time you actually reach the people you want to speak with, you could be one, two or even three people removed from them. This eliminates the personal satisfaction that you get from interacting with people face to face. Whenever you network, look for environments that are going to have hundreds of people so that you can not only increase your opportunity to meet others, but you can seek out people who you think you may have commonalities with.
Finally, you need to have fun. Select fun atmospheres to network in. These could be parties, events, and celebrations that everyone wants to be at. Once there, put your brightest smile on, grab a drink, and let loose. Forget about all the rules that you were told in your previous networking life and focus on simply relaxing. You will find that, if you do, you will be easier to approach leading to you meeting more people, and you will end the night feeling successful.
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