Networking events can be awkward for some of us. Also, it takes a lot of luck to meet folks who know something about the problem we are trying to solve at a networking event. These two reasons explain some of why receptions and other networking events don’t meet our member’s needs. What else about networking that doesn’t work?
There is some new research that explains why many association networking events do not work.
The problem with networking events is that there’s no bigger purpose other than just having conversations with people, and without that bigger purpose — without that high-stakes activity — there’s little incentive to move beyond conversations that make us comfortable. David Burkus, Go Ahead, Skip That Networking Event, Harvard Business Reveiw, May 14, 2018
Attendees and members attending your networking event say they want to meet new people, but despite their best intentions they rarely step outside of their comfort zone. Long-time members who hang out with their friends is bad news, not just for themselves but, this is also bad news for all the new attendees who are feeling alone and awkward.
How do we solve this problem? Burkus suggests we give attendees a greater purpose. Activities like volunteering for a board or committee foster better networking outcomes. Or if you want to replace the reception at the conference, get members to play games, do community work, or solve an industry problem. Overall, the secret is to get them working toward a common goal. Curate the problem to be solved, provide structure, and give members a job to do, and they will develop more meaningful relationships with each other than they would over a glass of wine.
- Improve the member experience with curated networking
- Associations can reduce the anxiety caused by networking
- Make conference networking more inclusive