You know those dreaded networking events? We've all been there. Awkward introductions, forced interactions, people just sitting around and counting down the minutes until it's acceptable to leave. What's the most you ever got out of these events? A couple of business cards you didn't use? A few more LinkedIn connections than you had the day before?
These events were once the cornerstone of business socializing and relationship building. What's changed? Effectiveness of the method.
Traditional forms of networking often lack cohesion, agenda, and purpose. Further, these events rarely have calls to action, and without a facilitator to direct the course of what people should be doing, engagement plummets and little networking is actually achieved.
The current moment in the entrepreneurialism era has exposed traditional networking methods for what they are: stale, outdated, and flat-out not working. The world is catching on, and organizations left and right are cutting their networking events due to poor turnouts, lackluster enthusiasm from participants, and less than glamorous feedback.
But the value of your contact list and professional collaboration remains true. In fact, networking is not only still relevant, it's more important than ever. It's not fading away, but rather it's being reinvented to improve on its past failures, ultimately to enhance the experience and outcomes of those who are looking to connect.
The new wave.
So, what are we seeing now?
Networking is evolving. Smaller, more vertically integrated events with tighter groups of people are demonstrating the new wave of connecting with other professionals. For example, entrepreneurial boot camps and camping trips are now emerging as popular methods for millennials to achieve their networking goals.
Take, for example, Survive and Thrive, a boot camp hosted at a resort for mission-driven entrepreneurs to collaborate with like-minded investors, partners, speakers, and mentors in an intimate environment. Survive and Thrive, along with many programs similar to it, is shifting the networking experience from conference rooms to trails and tents, making the experience far more personal, yielding better results for those who attend.
"The new face of networking looks a lot more like collaboration, and that's what we are creating," said Marva Allen, Survive and Thrive's CEO and co-founder. "Non-traditional, interactive environments are disrupting conventional networking methods, providing entrepreneurs with access to not only vital information, but the resources, partnerships, and exposure to investors they need to achieve their business goals. The results and impact that we drive feed off the creativity that play affords."
These programs often boast featured guests, such as prominent business executives and celebrities, and offer sessions for entrepreneurs in attendance to actually pitch their ideas to them. Sounds different than your typical office get-together, doesn't it?
As the young workforce continues to obsess over unconventional business methods and professional culture, expect more innovative forums for gathering professionals together to keep emerging.
Networking on social media.
Beyond the physical brand of networking events that continue to live on, it's important to understand that nowadays, networking is synonymous with interaction.
The rise of social media has completely altered what it means to network in 2017, and the online world has torn down geographic borders in connecting people to their desired audiences. Whether it be customers, investors, clients, or partners, social-media interaction is shifting the landscape of professional networking in a big way.
Just look at what's happening: organizations are networking nonstop just by tweeting at, responding to, and engaging with their targeted audiences through direct messages, discussion boards, and fan pages, where their messages can be broadcasted far more effectively and efficiently through these mediums than ever possible at an in-person event.
"Social platforms are essentially becoming mass networking landing spots," said Alex Yong, journalist at SmallBizTrends and the Observer. "People failing to realize this risk are falling behind as their competitors use these internet-based environments to expand their networks and create powerful collaborations."
Your Next Move
Before you plan or attend your next networking event, ask yourself what you want to get out of it and how it can get you closer to achieving your goals.
Don't just limit yourself to local, in-person networking gatherings if you want to see the best options and most opportunities in the field you're playing in. Consider newer, more effective alternatives to networking that can take you and your business to unprecedented territories.
**Nathan Feifel contributed to this article.