Why Most Networking Events Fail...

and 5 tips to save them

February 4 2014

What’s the difference between a networking event that inspires and connects versus one that fails?

Relationships…

Networking events are infamously awkward because they can’t seem to consistently generate trusting relationships.

There are exceptions, but often people approach them from the mindset of “How can you help me?”, “Can you get me a job?”, “Want to buy this?”.

This immediately gets the potential relationship started off on the wrong foot, and I can tell you from personal experience that it usually ends in both parties walking away dissatisfied.

In fact, this happened to me so frequently that I got disillusioned with networking events and just quick going all together.

But I discovered that networking events really didn’t have to be that way.  With a few tweaks to my approach and some help from a few friends, I found they could be really helpful, mutually beneficial, and much more meaningful.

I’ll show you how.

The Most Awkward Moment at Every Networking Event

Most networking events fail because they don’t foster long terms relationships and meaningful connections.  In fact networking events have become more like business speed dating where you’re quickly filtered by your response to the question:

“What do you do?”

While it seems innocent enough, this question too often leads to a dead end and doesn’t quickly deliver a connection that leads to a trusting relationship.

It’s often used as a crutch to immediately size up the other person up by job, company and job title.  Then your response is processed in making the decision to cut-bait and move on to the next person or explore a little deeper.

The awkward moment occurs when the other person’s eyes (or it could be your eyes) begin darting around the room while talking to you simultaneously searching to see who they can speak to next.

It can get pretty frustrating.

But there’s another way.

Change Your First Question

So what happens when the first question asks you is…

“What are you building?”

This broad question could lead to anything…you could be building your business, a new part of your career, a family, and new project at work.  The gives you a chance to connect over something that instantly resonates.

Suddenly your first interaction and chance for connection is over something meaningful.  It’s a chance to advance the conversation somewhere new and uplifting.  This is far more effective in building the relationship than “What do you do?”

Now that’s something I can get behind.

Case Study – Live Your Legend

After following and getting to know the inspiring, Scott Dinsmore at Live Your Legend, I decided to host a Live Your Legend – Local event in Charleston, SC. It was easy to get excited about this event because Scott coordinated it in 146 cities, 44 countries, involving over 2,000 attendees on the same night!

You can find the monthly Live Your Legend – Local Event closest to you by clicking here.

Despite record low temperatures and a last minute change in venue we had a great turnout, and a night that inspired.  The evening opened up with that question “What are you building?”, and I was amazed at everyone’s courage and vulnerability. It shifted the conversation to much more meaningful level for all of us.

Everyone shared what they were passionate about, and the challenges they were facing.

Instead of the conversation being directed towards where people worked and business as usual; it was an evening filled with excitement, possibility, and accountability.  All things that I’ve found rare in other networking events.

The best part of the evening was how many new friends I made that night.

Our next meeting is scheduled is coming up soon, and I can’t wait!

5 Steps to Save Your Next Networking Event (Inspired from Live Your Legend) 

I came away really energized by this event, and there are several tips that you can use to improve your next networking experience.

  1. Raise Your Courage Level 10% – Be courageous enough to show up.  Nothing happens without this.   Doing this alone is outside the comfort zone of the most, and it’s the reason why there are way more people at home at night on LinkedIn and Facebook than meeting in person. I don’t know anyone the built a true human connection just sitting in front of the computer.  If everyone raised their courage level for 1 night by 10% just imagine the possibilities.
  2. Try an Inspiring Question -  Instead of starting the “What do you do?”, try a more inspiring question like “What are you most proud of?”, ” What do you want to be known for?”, or “What impact would you like to have?
  3. Focus on Quality over Quantity – Set your intentions on making a few real connections versus how many business cards you can get.  This takes the pressure off an makes the event much more enjoyable.
  4. Be Vulnerable – This is biggest element that is missing from almost every networking event I’ve ever been to.  Most networking events are have everyone singing the praises of their own job, work experience, or business. Yes, that can be interesting but it’s far more powerful to talk about what challenges you’re both facing.  This allows you to go more deeply quickly and connect over something memorable.
  5. Add Accountability – Not all networking events will include this, but this is an incredibly powerful way for the group to support one another and ensure the momentum of the event keeps going.  Tell someone what you’re planning to do, commit to take action, and then come back for the next meeting and share what happened. An action can be anything from asking your boss to lunch, constructing a business or project proposal, to writing a new blog post, etc… Writing this article was one of my accountability items, and I’m so glad it was