In the last three years, I have spent two to three nights a week at various networking events in town. Because my ideal customer is a small business decision maker interested in outsourced marketing resources, local networking events are an excellent venue for face-time with decision makers and relationship building.
A key lesson I have learned is that the best networking events are events that are not actually advertised as networking events. If something is advertised as a “mixer” or “speed networking,” these events are the worst places to meet any decision makers. In fact, if networking is the sole feature of an event, you feel more like you’re on a used car lot rather than a place where true relationship building can happen.
If the best networking events are the events where networking is not the primary task, where do you go? If you want to meet decision makers, attend a talk on the San Diego clean tech industry or a panel discussion on the future of downtown San Diego. Any event where something else is the headliner. Usually at any of these events, there is networking before and after the event. The normal “riff raff” does not have the patience to sit through a talk about an important topic. A discussion about a complex topic actually serves as an excellent barrier to entry for most vendors. Most vendors do not have the foresight to realize that real decision makers chose to attend these events and are open to meeting new people.
As you look at an event calendar, keep in mind that just because it doesn’t say “networking” doesn’t mean that relationship building does not happen.