Working Through the Networking Scrum

Following the conclusion of an NFL game, you’ve most likely see the two head coaches surrounded by a gaggle of photographers as they meet on the field to shake hands.  Photographers that shoot the games refer to this as “the scrum” (in reference to the similarities of a rugby game) and while many discuss it with much disdain on various message boards and websites, only a few take the initiative to step outside of the hoards and try to get a different shot. The rest do the same thing they’ve always done and complain about it later. This type of situation came to mind recently as I was reading a complaint about a networking event.

Yes, networking in a large groupcan be
loud and crowded. But it’s not impossible.

A couple of months ago, I started attending networking events put on by a company that stages them in various cities around the country. In my opinion, the meetings were well organized and attended by quite a few businesspeople and job seekers alike, so they can be a bit crowded and sometimes noisy (like many networking events). Overall, though, I found them to be a positive experience. As a result, I was intrigued by a posting in the organization’s LinkedIn group titled, “Networking after work will advertise a networking event. Beware it is real cheap but the event will be way overcrowded and loud.”

The person who originated the thread complained that the event he attended in Chicago was a disaster and listed everything he thought was wrong with the event, with another attendee agreeing. The complaints got me thinking about why my experience was so different when the environments were similar. Here are three techniques I’ve realized I used to make a crowded networking event effective.

1. Work the edges. Although the majority of the people were in a large mass (scrum) in the middle of the bar and it was a bit noisy, I made contacts by stepping away from everyone else and met very interesting people who were also on the outside of the group. These weren’t the dregs of the group either. The people I met included:

A gentleman whose company offered cloud computing services. The whole concept intrigues me, and this was a great opportunity to get valuable insight into the level of security “the cloud” offers. (He feels that even though there is the slight chance of information being compromised, cloud servers are still much more secure than the average corporation’s firewall).

Two I.T. specialists that had been using a recently opened section of the area’s mass transit system in their commute. I had been wondering how effective this line running from an outer city into the Dallas/Fort Worth area would be and they gave it glowing reviews.

A graphic designer looking for a position in the non profit industry. I had met someone earlier that worked at one of her target companies and was able to relay some information on the employer.

2. This is just an introduction. If you’ve been networking for any amount of time, you’ve most likely recognized that the true networking begins after the event. You send a request to connect on LinkedIn (using something other than the generic text LinkedIn give you) or communicate via email. I sent the graphic designer I met a couple of resources on non profit employment and have passed along job opportunities I’ve come across.

3. Stop acting like a spoiled child that expects to be catered to and give a little input. I’ll apologize in advance: I’m going to rant a little here.

A problem I’ve run into while networking are adults that expect groups or organizations to do everything for them and don’t want to put any effort into the process. You get out of networking what you put into it. Don’t like the way things are being done? Volunteer to help make the event a better experience. The venue sucks? Make a suggestion of a place that might be better suited. If you’re paying for the service, then be an effective customer and give feedback that can help the organizations produce a better product. JUST DO SOMETHING!

Unfortunately, there are some people who simply want to complain and don’t want to put forth any effort. In the LinkedIn group discussion concerning the Chicago event in question, an attendee posted a favorable review and I made a post agreeing, with a few other comments.

The response from one of the Chicago attendees: “Lucky Dallas.”

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