I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.
Now that I work for myself, I go to a lot of networking events. I’m naturally an introvert, so networking events are very difficult for me. I hate them actually. But I keep going to them. Am I a glutton for punishment or what?
The reason I hate networking events so much is that they seem so inauthentic. The purpose of them is to meet others who may be able to help us in the future. Many will say that they’re the opposite: networking events are for offering help to others without expecting anything in return. That’s garbage. No one’s that selfless. Whenever we give, we want to get. But we’re not supposed to ask. It’s considered rude to ask for help right away. Some say that networking is an opportunity to make new friends. Many networking events charge an entrance fee. I don’t pay money to make friends! Not usually, anyway…
What really annoys me about networking events is that people want to shove their business cards in my face before I’ve established a rapport with them. A couple of weeks ago, I was at a networking event, and met a woman there. After saying her name, she immediately gave me her business card. I remember thinking to myself, “Why are you giving me your card? What makes you think I want it?” I had absolutely no relationship with this woman, yet I now had her email address and phone number. Should one’s contact information be so easy to get? If only dating was so simple! I’m very stingy with my business cards. I offer my business card only if, after speaking to someone for awhile, I think I can help that person. I never say right off the bat, “I’m Neil Thompson. Here’s my card.”
Because I’m an introvert, I find it difficult to engage people in conversation – especially if people are in mid-conversation. I hate interrupting, because I hate being interrupted. But that happens at networking events all the time.
I think it’s rather obvious that I need advice. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
I still go to networking events, but I don’t focus too much on how many people I speak to. If after speaking to someone, I feel comfortable enough to ask for a business card, I do so. I focus on building a few consistent relationships instead of many superficial ones. How many times have you gone to a networking event, collected a ton of business cards, and forgotten who those people were by the time you got home? I don’t work the room. It takes too much of my energy. Before I speak to anyone, I always think, “Why would this person want to help me?” With this in mind, I’m always thinking of ways to help others first. But I ALWAYS want something in return! Is that too tacky to admit?