Column: Sometimes networking without a goal is OK
Photo by Dorina Andress
A couple of years ago I learned a valuable lesson about networking and (sometimes) letting go.
I was attending the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Regional Chamber's Year Ender networking event. This is usually a huge blow-out. I don't know how many people were there that year, but I know we've easily hit more than 700 in previous years. Lots of great food and refreshments and lots of great people to help me make my networking goals for the evening.
If I had set any...
Yes, I will confess right now that I walked into that event without a single networking goal in mind. It had been a long day, and when a phone call that I had thought would take only 30 minutes ended up taking over 90, I was walking into the party more than a little late.
So, for a change, I decided that I was just doing this one for fun. I know a lot of people in the chamber, so this one was going to be just a great social occasion for me — a chance to catch up with some old friends.
OK, so, yes, that is technically a goal. It's just not my normal goal to meet and connect with two or three interesting people and get their cards so I can contact them later. In a way, I was setting the bar low enough that I was bound to succeed.
Before I go on, don't let my behavior in this one instance be any indication that I think this is a good idea in general. In general, I recommend that part of attending an event be setting serious goals which will help you extend and strengthen your network. Grabbing a handful of cookies from the buffet certainly does not fall under that category.
Then a funny thing happened: Networking.
I connected with people whom I knew and chatted briefly. Some I hadn't seen for a while and didn't know I'd started a new business. Some I had seen more recently and I got to hear about the successes they'd been having. Others introduced me to people I'd never met before. With some of those folks I exchanged business cards. I even made a couple of introductions myself.
All in all it was a remarkably successful networking event.
So, what's my take-away on this one? I guess it would be that sometimes, just sometimes, if you've established yourself in your network and you have an otherwise regular networking practice, you can attend a networking event "just for fun."
And the cookies were remarkably tasty.