Quick Intro to Derek Coburn: Over the past several years it's become abundantly clear to us that our true "wealth" doesn't come from properties or money in the bank but from the relationships we have. The people you know not only enrich your life socially but in a business context they can help you move forward exponentially faster than trying to figure out everything yourself. Derek is one of the best connectors we know, he has huge influence with his clients and is masterful at bringing value to each conversation you have with him. He's the author of Networking is Not Working and runs Cadre, an invitation only community. We rarely share guest posts on this blog, it's a testament to how highly we think of him. With that let's move on to the answer to: What are the best networking events to attend? Take it away Derek...
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 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 like 2014 Fastest Growing Companies 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 hare your approach to developing professional relationships. This is why content matters. And to that point I would also include…
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, hosted by Tien Wong and Tech2000.)
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?
Start Building Your Own Network
If building a valuable network to serve your business is a priority for you, I have found it's best to avoid larger networking events entirely. Instead, there are specific strategies I use that get much better results with much less frustration. To help you implement them, I have created a free 3-part training series that shows you exactly what those strategies are. Click here to watch the first lesson!