Lately I have been attending and writing about small group networking options. This week I did the opposite. From one of the many social medias I follow I was invited to a brand new networking event called Spark. It was to be held one of the newest and most dramatic places downtown and I had been curious to see the space. The program was about generating and supporting new business ideas, which is always interesting and the price was practically free. Moreover, I have learned over time that when I hear about a new networking event – just go. It is an opportunity to be in a room with lots of bright shiny new faces, and in this case lots and lots of new faces. The crowd was massive and diverse, but luckily dotted with a few familiar faces which makes getting started easier.
The great thing about attending a one-time or launch of an event is that there are no groups or cliques. Some people may come with a friend or colleague but most people are on their own and looking for someone to talk with. And since they served need-a-fork food I had an easy excuse to barge into a tall table grouping in order to eat. People always welcome you to their cluster if they see you juggling a glass a fork and a plate of food. Normally I don’t recommend filling both hands as it inhibits handshaking and card exchanging, but if you are heading to a table it can be an asset. While you are in the food line, look around for an opening at a likely table.
At a large event try not to get overwhelmed by the amount of bodies. You can use the same tricks to get comfortable as in a small group, and it is easier to have a discussion in a food line when it is moving slowly. It is also easier to melt away when others join a conversation and move on to meet more people.
Like any other event, try to have a few good conversations. Spend more time with people you are likely to do business with later and move on from people who are too many steps away from being a direct sale or resource. In a one-shot event, you can’t focus on who they may know, you won’t get to know anyone well enough to create an environment for a referral. Save that for your membership groups where you can build long-term relationships.
Lastly, if there are speaking sessions you are interested in go, if not there are always folks hanging back and still networking in the halls and cocktail room. When the masses head into the program, a huge event gets a lot smaller. If you hate crowds it will offer a welcome breather and a chance to get to know others who may feel the same way.