Several weeks ago, the vice president of our agency invited me to tag along for a networking event with the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC). It was a fantastic opportunity to interact with other local businesses and forge some new connections for our agency, made even better by the presentation from Gigantic Brewing, a new brewery opening this month in SE Portland.
As the only young male in our office, I suppose I was the obvious choice to attend an event about the craft brew industry in Portland. Still, I couldn’t help but feel nervous most of the night. I took extra care to watch attendees and pick up cues for appropriate behavior. Who seems visibly disinterested or too aggressive in a conversation? Is it better to walk around or sit down with a group at a table? Do I stay with my managers or wander off on my own? Where do I put the nametag that keeps falling off?
Fortunately, I was able to answer these questions and more as the evening wore on. I visited with several potential clients and exchanged business cards – two connected with me on LinkedIn the following day – and found a seat with a table of older women for the presentation from Gigantic.
I’ll admit that networking events create a strange rapport between attendees. Although everyone was trying to be friendly and attentive, there was a palpable sense of salesmanship to every conversation. When we had all been seated and took turns to introduce ourselves, several attendees merely regurgitated their company’s advertising slogan. Others seemed too aggressive and desperate during our interaction together.
But there is a fine balance between friendliness and ambition. It may be a casual environment, but we attend events like this to forge connections that will improve our business. I’m grateful for the opportunity to approach that balance and learn from it. These events have so much potential – especially for newbies to the industry like us – and we will all be more capable and attractive job candidates if we can network effectively.