We all know how difficult it is to find someone at networking events who takes a long-term approach to developing mutually beneficial relationships (If you don’t, check out Part 1.) Like nightclubs, it is possible to meet good people with good intentions at these events.
But when we do go to big events, we might have another hurdle to clear: Trust issues.
We all have to attend events to support a great cause or a great client. And attending events where you will know several other people there can make for a fun and productive evening. What is challenging are those times when we won’t know more than a handful of attendees. All we know is that the majority of people there essentially will be looking for professional one-night stands and as such, many of us are conditioned to have our guards up.
We assume that if someone approaches us, they just want to push their own agenda – even if they use an indirect tactic. If someone says to me, “Hey, I want to learn more about you and how I might be able to help!” it throws me off. What’s the catch? What am I missing? This person could be sincere for all I know. But based on my experience, they are more likely taking this approach because they heard that by initially focusing on the other person, they give the impression that they’re not just out for themselves.
As much as I hate to say it, many of us will always be skeptical of this approach – even if it is sincere – because more than likely it isn’t. I am guilty of this myself.
Let’s go back to the nightclub for another perspective. You’re out on the town for a fun evening with your girlfriends and a seemingly nice guy starts chatting with you. What would your reaction be if, immediately after exchanging formalities, he informed you that he is looking to settle down and get married? You would either decide he is hitting on you and masking his true intentions, or you’d think he’s serious — which is just creepy. Even if you’re looking for a spouse yourself, your reaction will likely not be a good one. Revealing this information two minutes into a conversation at a bar is not consistent with your expectations in that environment.
This same socially awkward scenario applies to me going to an actual nightclub as The Married Guy. (Not that I get out to clubs much these days, but say I had to for whatever reason.) If I went up to some guy or gal and said, “Hey, it would be great to have an extra friend. Tell me more about you and what you have going on.” It would be sincere, but it would also be weird, off-putting, and have the opposite of the intended effect. Wrong place, wrong time.
If you’re going to fit in, whether at a nightclub or a networking event, you have to assume that pretty much everyone there is thinking of what they’re going to get out of it. This is the accepted norm, so we’re thrown off even if someone is legit (which is why sincere people usually pass on attending in the first place).
“Dishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The presence of people who wish to pawn bad wares as good wares tends to drive out the legitimate business.”
Essentially, well-intentioned sales professionals do not want to be in a business with dishonest salespeople. And since most people who attend networking events are not looking to develop meaningful and helpful professional relationships, the ones who are stayed home.
Have you ever met someone at a networking event and gotten lucky?
If one of these chance encounters turned into a mutually beneficial relationship, I’d love to hear about how it happened. It might give us some hope…but probably not. At the end of the day, I think it’s best we avoid the larger events where we don’t know many of the attendees and spend our time networking in more conducive environments.
What say you?