I hate networking events.  It’s a deep, abiding, unrelenting hate. When I open my email and there’s another invitation to yet another networking event, I roll my eyes and click delete. Am I suggesting that it’s equivalent to being tortured in the deep bowels of Hell? No. But close.

I’m one of those people who hates small talk.  Give me the plight of the endangered polar bear from a socioeconomic perspective and I’m all in.  But talk to me about mundane frivolities and it becomes blatantly obvious I would rather be somewhere else. Be honest. You feel the same way. You don’t really care about the last vacation they took or their kid’s recital. Everyone is there for the same purpose. You would think that would make it better but actually, I believe it’s the crux of the problem.

Wikipedia describes Networking as a socioeconomic business activity by which business people and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures. 

“business people and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships’ –  So what happens when you get to one of these events?…lots of sales pitches. There’s a very good reason why networking events make your skin crawl. Everywhere you turn there is someone trying to sell you on their product or service. The problem with that definition is you can’t form a relationship of any kind in the span of an hour or two while everyone shuffles aimlessly from one group to another hoping to find someone to connect with.  The interactions ring hollow.

I’ve been to more than my fair share of networking events. I am like a fish out of water. I actually went so far as to create my own event to address the problem (That’s a story for another day) After 20 years in business, I have come to realize that ‘networking’ in that type of environment is never going to be something that I’m good at.  But here’s the funny thing, In the course of my travels, business and otherwise I have met a ton of people.  People that I formed actual relationships with and whenever someone comes to me with a problem, I inevitably seem to know just the right person to refer them to.  

A colleague once said to me “Geez for someone that hates networking you know everyone!” I realized she was right. But the key is none of those relationships were formed overnight. And even fewer were borne out of a networking event. Your tennis club or the gym you frequent or even your child’s daycare are all places where there is a more natural, less creepy way to form business relationships.  My dentist and my veterinarian both play tennis with me. 

Start building meaningful relationships and you will find that the rest falls into place.

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