I go to a fair amount of networking events; I have been to some fabulous ones, some decent ones and some pretty bad ones. Don’t get too excited… I’m not about to name and shame! Instead, what I want to share is how I’ve learned that regardless of how good or bad you perceive the event to be, someone else is having a totally different experience.
A wise friend of mine once said (after I was complaining about a particular speaker) “There was something in there for everyone; someone will get something out of it”. Since then, I have tried to approach every event I go to with that in mind. Often this means stepping out of my comfort zone and approaching someone. This is still a skill I work on at every event. I tend to psych myself out at the last minute. My heart starts beating and I start fumbling with my words but just when I am about to chicken out, I take a deep breath and walk over there…and it often results in my silver lining moment of the night.
The Silver Lining in Long Presentations
I often go to networking events in heels, as I’ve seen some other women do. And to be honest, standing around for extended periods of time in heels makes me cranky. However, during those marathon events, I concentrate on the people I meet rather than the content or my aching feet. At one event I got stuck beside the display table of one of the exhibitors. We struck up a conversation and it turned out we knew a few people in common and I now consider her a great connection. At another event, I spotted someone who represents a company I had been dying to partner with. I kept her in my sight and after the presentation, I took a deep breath and walked over to her; I was greeted with a smile and a willingness to get involved in my project.
The Silver Lining in Unprepared Speakers
I know public speaking is hard. Personally, I hate it. (The last time I spoke in front of a room full of people, I spoke into the prize ticket instead of the mic!) Having said that, unprepared speakers at events are frustrating – particularly when you’ve paid for your ticket and taken time out of your day to attend.
I recently attended an event where although I really wanted to respect the speakers and pay attention, it was slightly… um, painful…. Then, during the closing Q&A portion, one of them said something that truly resonated with my work on a particular project and when speaking to an acquaintance, they had gotten the same key note out of the talk. I ended up using that quote in my project.
The Silver Lining in the clique events
I have and still attend events on my own. Sometimes it’s because I really think there is an opportunity to connect with someone, other times it’s because I am really interested in the speaker and I have no one to go with. Every once in a while, it seems I am the only solo person there and everyone else is already in a group that seems impossible to penetrate. Instead of trying to infiltrate a tight squad, I’ve turned to the person next to me – or had this person turn to me – and introduce themselves. Often, just when I thought the event was useless, I end up meeting that one person who ends up adding value to my work, my personal life, or whom I know I can introduce to one of my connections.
So the next time you feel like your time has been wasted at an event and you want to go home, try one of the following:
- Introduce yourself to someone new
- Ask the speaker a question that’s relevant to you
- If you have a smartphone, follow the Twitter chat and talk to someone in the room who’s tweeting.
You never know what the result will be, but it will be easier to find that silver lining.