Well, often it’s because they don’t know what to expect.
Is it just going to be a big room full of people standing around?
What if no-one talks to me?
It’s true – those kind of networking events, particularly if you’re not a confident networker or don’t know anyone (or both) can be very intimidating.
But what if you DID know what to expect?
What if it wasn’t just a room full of people, but an actual event, with activities that you were interested in – perhaps a quiz, a treasure-hunt, a charitable event, learning how to build a shed.
If the networking event in question had some kind of shared activity as part of it, and one you were really interested in at that, then you wouldn’t be nearly so intimidated, would you?
This is why, even just meeting someone for a meal or a coffee is a better way of networking than a simple meeting (because the meal or the coffee becomes the main activity with the networking happening as a secondary activity – putting less pressure on the networking aspect if you like and therefore enabling a more natural interaction. Worst case, you know how to drink coffee or eat a meal so you didn’t turn up for nothing!).
My Team Building Day
I’ll always remember a particular team building day I had with my team in a particular corporate job.
I had just taken on a new senior role in a big company. My boss informed me that there were some serious morale issues in the team I’d just inherited and as well as getting to know them and their projects, I should also have a team building day with them.
She told me that I needed to get them in a room and get them to take turns presenting their projects to me and then have some discussion, you know, team building stuff.
That all sounded quite dry, so instead I took my team for a day out of the office on a community project, helping to restore, repair and re-paint a very neglected playground owned by the community center in quite a poor area of London.
We didn’t learn too much about each others projects and left that for further meetings in the successive weeks back at the office but the day went very well, the team worked brilliantly together doing something really worthwhile for the community and the team building and rapport which happened as a result of this shared experience (for me getting to know my new team too).
The Power of Shared Experience
The power of shared experiences is simply that whoever is involved suddenly has a frame of reference – something in common which is easy and readily available to talk about and that is highly likely to be relevant and of interest to the person you are talking to.
The more significant the shared experience (whether in terms of social impact, difficulty (e.g. a shared physical challenge), emotion or anything other measure of significance), the greater the chance that the experience will create a bond, rapport and trust between those involved.
So when you’re thinking of networking, consider doing so through some kind of shared experience if at all possible – whether it’s something really simple like a meal or a coffee, or something more significant – it makes the whole (networking) thing so much easier.