I know some serial networkers. Not your average, 'I attend a couple of networking events a month' sort of networkers, but the 'I'm at an event every single day including weekends' sort of networkers. I even know someone who has special straws that she takes to every event so that her lipstick doesn't smudge (you know who you are!). And I admire this dedication. Not only the showing up, but the foresight to have a specific networking utensil with you at all times (are straws utensils?!). Most people just take their business cards.
The thing is, networking can be EXPENSIVE. Most networking events cost between £10 - £20 a head. There are obviously the free events, but then on the other end of the scale, there are events for multiple hundreds, even thousands of pounds. A few of these a month, and your balance sheet is starting to look ropey.
So I wanted to ask...
How much does your net worth increase by networking?
Are you spending more than you're generating?!
FULL DISCLOSURE: I NETWORK A LOT.
So I come from no place of judgement. In fact, I made it my mission for the latter half of this year to attend at least two industry related events (where networking was possible) per week. At £20 per event, that's £160 per month on ticket prices alone, let alone travel, parking, drinks etc. And these are only the cheap events. I spent £199 (+VAT) to spend two days last week in a conference room at Heathrow hearing from other entrepreneurs. The structure of the event went pretty much as I would have expected. Each speaker had an hour on stage. They sold us the dream (I'm normally hooked at this point), told us where they came from (usually there's a lot of pain in their past) and then how they did it (IT SOUNDS SO SIMPLE I CAN DO THAT I'M GOING TO START DOING THAT).
This all culminates with an amazing deal (price written on a board somewhere):
... which is knocked down to an amazing reduction (insert new price, in red, right next to the old price which has a giant cross now through it):
... and just to make it even more special for this event only, let's throw in an amazing extra bonus day of amazingness, a one to one coaching session of brilliance, and then access to a USB stick with the meaning of life on it, all THROWN IN FOR FREE IF YOU BUY TODAY.
ALL THIS FOR £2497!
(It's never a round number. Why is it never a round number?!)
I say all of this with 10% sarcasm and 90% admiration because no matter what, there are always people dashing to the back (you have to dash to the back because the first ten people will usually get a set of steak knives or a rocket or something equally as amazing). And to be honest, I want to know how to do it.
The event I was at last week totally sold the dream to me. A digital business, passive cashflow (well, as passive as any cashflow can get) and it all seemed so feasible. I have, in fact, spent the best part of this evening discussing the hypothetical empire I'm going to build with my husband. He just lets me talk (he's used to me coming back from events with some new business idea).*
So what can you realistically expect from all this networking? Are you actually going to find the meaning of life? Are you going be handed an amazing deal? Are you going to make millions?
In a word. So why do I keep going back and spending so much money? What am I possibly hoping to get out of my evening??
Networking at the opening of PPN (Progressive Property Network) Canary Wharf
TO LEARN ONE THING.
It's that simple. I set my bar ridiculously low. This way, no matter what, I am always pleasantly surprised. If I learn one thing, one nugget of information, I consider an event a success. Even then, my definition of 'one bit of information' is also quite loose. It might be that I learn something about myself and this inspires me to do something. Inspiration and motivation is a large part of why I go to these events.
And here's why my standards are so low... It only takes one idea to start a business. Every empire has been built off the back of one notion. A notion or a spark that will grow. You nurture it, you water it and it soon becomes something more. I have never been to an event where I haven't learnt something. Even the worst events teach you what NOT to do, what not to say. So really, there's no downside.
I see networking events as the fuel in my entrepreneurial car. I need them to inspire, to learn, to grow. Because being an entrepreneur can be a lonely business and I personally, need a source of inspiration. Quite frankly, if a £20 event ended up giving you the idea to start the next Virgin, or Apple, would you pay it? You bet your bottom dollar (or 20...) you would!
I have also found that I am most productive after a networking event. I am pumping. I have ideas, they're firing, I've spoken to people, they're inspiring... sometimes they're so inspiring that I want to dash home to get better at what I do so I can keep up... other times they're the ones asking me for advice and the simple act of explaining what I do reminds me how far I've come. Regardless of the mechanics, there's always something.
Networking = Inspiration
Now all of this doesn't take into account the events where you actually consume information - where there is literally education occurring. These gatherings are school classes for the nouveau moguls and I can't afford to miss out. Here are some of the few things that have come directly out of networking over my last 4 weeks:
I started this blog
I started writing my book
I was inspired to restructure the cashflow of my business
I decided I wanted to do speaking
I revamped my entire social presence
I completely redesigned my personal website and the websites for both of my companies (www.nelliemcquinn.com, www.grassrootsmedia.co.uk and www.property165.co.uk - shameless plug)
I (along with my team) are developing a whole new content service for our corporate clients
All of that has come out of a few weeks of networking. If that isn't proactive, I don't know what is!
SO. Now that you're sold and I've inspired you to inject yourself with networking heroin... let me give you one word of warning. LEAVE YOUR CREDIT CARD AT HOME. Just don't take it. Because trust me, when the speaker is on stage and has sold you the dream, you'll find the steak knives too hard to resist and you'll be signing the carbon paper agreement before you can say USB with the answers to life.
YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT...
To learn ONE thing and not spend A DIME over the ticket price. Only once you can master this skill, will you master the networking drug. Because it is like a drug.
And god it's good.
*I read this to my husband and he was mortified that it was implied he was simply nodding and smiling. He's totally right. He had some very good points. He always does. Our digital empire is imminent. WATCH THIS SPACE.