What are the best networking events to attend?

The short answer? Whichever ones have the potential to be a success in multiple ways.

If you’ve read my book, you know I’m not a big fan of most traditional networking events. However, there are certain instances where they can be incredibly valuable if properly leveraged.

If you’re considering going to an event that is only offering the opportunity to connect with other professionals, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. In order for an event like this to be a good investment of your time and money, you’ll have to connect with several relevant, like-minded people. If you don’t meet anyone worthwhile, you’ll have lost time and money that you can never get back.

With no shortage of events to choose from, there are a few things I look for when deciding which ones to attend, and I suggest you do the same.

YOUR IDEAL CONNECTION

You probably have a good idea of who you’d like to meet (either a specific person, or folks in certain industries or positions), and most events will provide some clues around who is likely to attend.

If there is a published guest list on the registration page, give it a quick scan to see if you recognize any names (or industry segment) you would like to connect with. For cadre YOUniversity events, we list the names, companies and job titles of attendees (all of whom are carefully vetted), so it’s easy to see that our events are geared to CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs.

You should also look for events that are specific to certain industries or job titles in your sweet spot. For example, if your business and the value you can provide others centers around companies that are growing, attending an event that specifically focuses on high-growth businesses (which attracts high-growth founders) would position you for success versus a generic event with the word “mixer” or “party” in the title.

Bear in mind, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll connect with anyone in a meaningful way. This risk comes with the territory. Just because someone has a certain job title or a similar target market doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll share your approach to developing professional relationships. This is why content matters. And to that point I would also include…

GAME-CHANGING CONTENT

If a networking event is featuring a world-class speaker, or a panel of experts discussing a topic that’s of interest to you, a lot of the risk is removed. Even if you’re unimpressed by the other attendees, there’s a good chance you’ll be glad you went if you pick up a few game-changing ideas for your business. That said, you should still try to find events with great information AND attendees, since you can probably find some version of the presentation on YouTube. (For example one of the best recurring events in DC that meets both criteria is Connectpreneur.)

Gary Vaynerchuk presenting at a cadre event

Gary Vaynerchuk presenting at a cadre event

Now that you know what to look for in an event, you’ll want to make sure you optimize the opportunity.

BRING SAND TO THE BEACH

If I identify an event that’s featuring a great speaker and/or the expected attendees seem to be the types of folks I want to meet, my next step is to think of who else I know that could benefit from attending.

If I bring a client (prospective clients and strategic partners also do nicely) and can introduce them to some great ideas (via the speaker) and/or people (via attendees that I know), I will deepen my relationship with that person. I don’t have to rely on connecting with other attendees to validate the investment I made by attending.

Taking this a step further, I almost always offer my client the opportunity to bring someone else along. I do this for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is that my client will get credit for introducing someone in their network to some great content and/or people. In the very least, they will probably get more out of the event by sharing the experience with a key member of their network.

The second reason—which should NOT be your motivation for doing this—is that I’ll get the opportunity to meet and interact with someone who could end up being a prospective client or a valuable addition to my network. However, I never follow up with this person in a business context unless they ask me to. If your client gets the impression that your motive in all of this was to pitch to someone in their network, it will make them look bad and reflect poorly on you.

Do you have a process for determining the best networking events to attend? Have you leveraged other companies’ events as a way to play host to your clients and network? How did it work out?

5 Comments | Category Uncategorized | Tags:

5 Comments

  1. by boblondon on October 23, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Good post, Derek.

    Just FYI for your readers/followers, I’ve been to the WBJ Growing Companies event twice and there’s any interesting dynamic: Nominated/winning companies buy tables and fill them up with employees, most of whom are not interested in networking or don’t need to as part of their job.

    So the result is a hundred islands (tables) of people who are out having tons of fun with each other. That said, there are opportunities of course any time there are senior decision makers in the room!

  2. by Derek Coburn on October 27, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks, Bob. You make a great point! Even when we do our homework around larger events, the odds are still stacked against us.

  3. by Bob London on October 23, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Good post, Derek.

    Just FYI for your readers/followers, I’ve been to the WBJ Growing Companies event twice and there’s any interesting dynamic: Nominated/winning companies buy tables and fill them up with employees, most of whom are not interested in networking or don’t need to as part of their job.

    So the result is a hundred islands (tables) of people who are out having tons of fun with each other. That said, there are opportunities of course any time there are senior decision makers in the room!

  4. by Isaac Vigil on December 9, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Great tips Derek,
    I think that making research about the attendees before the event and bringing somebody you want to strength your relationship with are great ideas.
    Will try next time and post how it went.
    Thank you.

  5. by Derek Coburn on December 10, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    That’s awesome, Isaac! Let me know how it goes.

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