I just did something I haven't done in a while: I went to a networking event. The more time passes, the more I get out of connecting within organic environments and, occasionally, bonding at a small conference. Besides, with now two young kids and a busy business, I don't have much time.
During the cocktail hour, I chatted with an older gentleman, a serial entrepreneur. He asked me if I knew the scene, as he didn't know anyone. I was puzzled, then relieved as I admitted that I hadn't been to a networking event in a while.
We then both realized that we had been too busy doing rather than talking.
The slippery slope of networking
Networking is absolutely important: It grows your brain trust, exposes you to new ideas and gives you a break from the day-to-day grind. But going regularly specifically to networking events has an effect of diminished returns, especially if you are going to them within the same circles. Are you starting to recognize the same people at networking events? Then it's probably time to stop.
One of the great things about parenthood and other external responsibilities is that it forces you not to waste time. Back in Silicon Valley, I would spend hours every week at networking events - as did most people I knew. Mind you, I didn't do the TED Talks, startups and bigger books until after I left the Silicon Valley networking scene, started a family and took my time more seriously. I don't think that's a coincidence.
Before I go to an event, networking or otherwise, I ask myself one question:
Is there something more productive I could be doing with this time?
I implore you to ask yourself the same question.