By sealenterprises, Aug 21 2015 01:57PM
I am not sure about you, but does the sentence, “it’s your turn to attend a networking meeting on behalf of the company this month” send shivers of disarray through my body, motivating me to reach for my diary to juggle into place that long over-due dental check-up I have been putting off, which, as it will happen, will fall right on that date!
If you are like me, someone who has attended my fair share of business network meetings, and see the whole experience as a waste of valuable time, then you will recognise some of the following networking gripes that I have regularly had to endure over the years:
Networking Gripes - One
Arriving at the meeting nice and early in order to get a parking space and prepare for the meeting, only to find that your version of early is not the version the super-achievers, high flyers and go-getters operate to. You are then left trying to find somewhere to park, either down some local side street, or as I had to do recently, park in a local garden centre resulting in a £100 fine for overstaying my welcome by 5 minutes!
Networking Gripes -Two
You finally get through the venue door only to find there is a large queue on the other side where all those people who did not pre-book their place on the meeting are now paying their entrance charge and receiving their badge or sticker with their name and company on it.
Networking Gripes -Three
OK, so you are in; you’ve negotiated the car parking issues, successfully made it passed the people on the door, your armed ready with your business cards and spiel about what you do and how you can help the rest of the world do it. But you’re getting ahead of yourself; there is still the issue of the breakfast/lunch to be dealt with and the formality of finding a table on which to eat it on.
Networking Gripes - Four
It could be anywhere between early morning, mid-day to late evening. You have either got a hard day’s work in front of you, or behind you, your meeting and interacting with people you have probably never met before, and trying to find appropriate things to say and yet still look and act professional. How can one ever look or even sound professional if you are chewing on a full English breakfast, a croissant, lunch time dinner or evening meal!
Secondly, the food is delivered to different tables at different times over a ten minute period. If you are one of the lucky ones, then you will get yours first, sadly this is rarely the case, leaving you to belt down a piping hot meal in order to stay in touch with the meetings tight schedule and programme.
Lastly, there is very often a guest speaker talking at this point, perhaps about a topic you have a valid interest in or believe passionately about. One is very often left struggling to hear what they are saying or even see them through the din of people eating and the constant visual disturbance of waiters moving back and forth across your field of vision delivering the food to the other delegates.
Networking Gripes - Five
At last, with the breakfast time banquet over, the guest speakers in-audible talk over, it’s time to get down to some serious networking. Now there are two popular formats from here on in; the ‘all around the table’ format or the ‘two opposing lines’ style.
The ‘all-around the table’ style has some nice features, it allows for a set number of people to interact with everyone else on that table in an even and formally structured way. However, it all falls apart when after the first round has been completed, everyone hast to get up and move to another table according to their number, which corresponds to some mathematical coding that only the organisers vaguely understand. This results in large numbers of people wandering about with that helpless look on their face looking for their tables, whilst the organisers or hosts desperately try to get you to your desired seat and prevent the meeting falling further behind schedule.
OK, by some sheer luck, you arrived at what you hope is your correct seat and table, to go through the whole process again. Sadly this time, you have to negotiate your way around a sea of dinner plates covered with half eaten breakfasts and cups of tea and coffee teetering on the edge about to spill all over your business cards or worst still, you!
There must be an alternative way of doing this you ask yourself, yes there is, it’s the ‘two opposing lines’ format of networking. I am sure most of you are familiar with this format, where everyone is invited to form two long lines opposite each other, before the sounding of a whistle or bell signals the start of a 30 – 60 second session, whereby one participant talks to a recipient about their company and what they do. This process is then repeated in reverse. Once both sides have had their time, another whistle of bell sounds, which is the trigger for everyone to get up and move one seat to your left, or right, by this point I have lost the plot and not sure which way to move along with everyone else, and the whole process starts over again.
It is at this point that I insert a pair of ear plugs into my ears, put a throat lozenge into my mouth, don my plastic mac and have my alcohol wipes at the ready. Why you may ask? Well simply this; when 50 – 100 people are all trying to get their point across at the same time, in a relatively enclosed area, it is noisy, so noisy that people have to shout at one another. This loud vocally charged interaction is done with passion and very often desperation, at such close proximities, that the ensuing result can be anything from a projection of saliva, to a sore throat and ringing in your ears, all of which are disturbing and extremely unpleasant.
In addition, not everyone sticks to the rules; someone inevitably thinks they can get away with trying to sell their product or service for another few seconds more than their allotted time. Trouble is all those seconds add up and before you know it there is a seat blockage!
Surely there hast to be a more constructive and convenient way for business folk to come together to interact, to network, to promote their company and do what the meeting was set up to do, namely improved your client, customer base?
Do you have pet networking gripes, stories and tales regarding the networking events you have attended that you would like to share?
Do the points I have raised in this blog ring a bell with you, and do you have other gripes and issues that you could add to our list?
What ideas and suggestions do you have that could contribute to this discussion in order to make these punishing events in our life less taxing, interesting and truly meaningful to your business?
Some areas for consideration might be:
• Time of day?
• Day of the week?
• Numbers of attendees
• Length of meeting
• Styles and format
• Relevant guest speaker topics