Is networking face-to-face still a valuable or effective business development tool? When it comes to business development, networking is the number one low cost solution for small businesses. On Friday I attended my first networking event in probably three years. Mostly because the easily accessible groups I was attending were easily accessible. That being said, there were usually 10 bankers, 20 realtors, 30 insurance people, a handful of pyramid schemes and the like. Since I am only wanting to talk to CEOs, I found these networking groups to be a tough road to meet or get introductions to the to proper contacts. Anyhow, I thought I would attend a networking event a partner was sponsoring.
The group putting on the event put a spin on networking. They tried to get people to share a problem and ask a question instead of rant about how great they were. The concept is for the networking to be more like a mastermind group, than a networking event. This is a great idea and interesting spin, at least I thought so.
Here is the problem though, unless you knew about this before you went to the event, you may struggle with an issue to share on the spot. We sat at tables of 7 or 8 people. We had one facilitator, one timer (everyone got 5 minutes to talk) and the rest of the group just shared their stories. People tend to struggle with change. In their mind they came to sell themselves, not share their problems or ask for help. Many people are not always willing to share their true problems with a group of strangers. There is no trust built up yet.
The mastermind idea brought up some interesting conversations, though. If the same people attended the same event trust would build. When trust was established, this might be a good group. However since the group was coming from all over the metroplex, I doubt many of these people will see each other again.
So is networking dead? Honestly I personally do not know. As I mentioned, I gave up face-to-face networking years ago. I get out there and make connections online or over the phone these days. This is partly because I can be more selective with who I connect with, but also because I can get more done if I am not driving an hour to an event, and an hour back from the event. What a waste of time this is especially in Friday rush hour traffic!
For me, Linkedin Groups and webinars have replaced much of the old face-to-face networking I used to do. This works for me. What works for you? Do you find face-to-face networking to be good at getting you new or repeat business? What other things are you doing to make connections with prospects?