How to pick and choose your live networking events
How to manage live networking events
Every day I am bombarded with invitations to attend live networking events. Everyone wants a chunk of my time. These invitations come in for workshops, great looking, fun jollies or junkets, and up-scale conferences. It’s impossible to attend them all both in terms of direct and opportunity costs, but also a time perspective.
It’s not just the time taken up to be physically present. You have to factor in travel time plus the residual costs of attending: travel, refreshments and accommodation expenses. Going to events held in different countries can easily cause you to rack up significant expenses. You also have to take into account the impact of attendance has on your professional activity while you are networking. What happens to your workload while you are absent? For entrepreneurs taking 24 hours off the job can become expensive. Employers may not want you to be absent. [Tweet “The key element is to be strategic. You can’t go to everything.”]
Depending on your career goals for the year (and of course you have a 12 month plan!) you will make a decision on what events will add most value.
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
• Do you need to gain additional skills? If you do, workshops or conference with strong learning streams are your best bet. Check out the speaker list and if there are high-profile presenters, facilitators or trainers with good reputations then these could be a good option. Two conferences I whole heartedly endorse are the JUMP Forums in Brussels, Lyon and Paris and HRTechWorld in London, San Francisco and Amsterdam.
Another consideration for me is how women are presented. I will no longer attend conferences where women are under represented on the main stage. Organisers must start making some effort to showcase female professionals. Failure to do so is lazy and especially shocking if the organisers are women. Many suggest they can’t find women speakers. Contact me if your ae stuck! 3Plus has a great speaker network!
• Do you need to extend your reach within your sector? Check the size and scope of the conference. Although this isn’t necessarily the top driver, how many people will be attending should be a consideration. If it’s a small event you need to be sure to be able to have a meaningful connection with the people who are signed up. Reach out to them before you go if possible. LinkedIn is a perfect channel for this.
• Do you need to extend your reach outside your sector or in a different geography? This is definitely where scale can be helpful if you want to connect with a diverse range of people. Make sure you research people before you go.
• Do you need to connect with anyone specific? If you need to complete your Go-To 10 list of key network anchors? Everyone should have a list of 10 people they can contact in an emergency. If your list is incomplete going to live networking events is a good way to meet connections who can fill the gaps.
When you have identified your priorities for the year it’s usually down to time constraints and budgets. If you work for a company they may foot the bill and you will have to make a business case for going usually to your boss or HR. If you are self-employed –you are the bill payer so the same principle applies. Don’t forget that in many geographies, training is treated as a tax-deductible expense. Conference organisers frequently arrange special rates with hotels so check out their websites for any discounts.
This brings us to jollies and junkets. Everyone has an event invitation where there is no really obvious professional value to going. They are just fun. It might be a sporting or charity event, or other convention. But [Tweet “very often great connections are made in the most unexpected live networking events.”] So there can be added value despite what it looks like . Just be careful not to break the bank attending. Sometimes it’s possible to get a discounted deal if you offer to write a blog or publicise the event in your network to offset some of the costs.
But being strategic about which live networking events you attend is key. Don’t get caught in a FOMO trap (Fear of Missing Out). Go to the ones that will best help you meet your goals and business or career plan.
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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