Networking sessions are almost always garbage.
They only actually work if they’re guided in some way that gives a reason for strangers to interact. Even people like me, ballsy, confident, social people who always have something to say, find most networking sessions to be an excruciating waste of everyone’s time and energy.
The idea that the plan is just
is stupid beyond belief.
Everyone should stop running them like this. They do not work. People with lots of connections talk to each other and gain nothing. People with few connections hardly talk to anyone and then feel shitty and miserable afterwards.
If you’re thinking of holding a networking session, and your plan is just to get people in a room and that’s it, hang your head in shame, sit yourself down and think about what you were about to do, you energy-draining monster.
If you’d like to host an actually useful networking session where people actually network, this is one way to do it:
1. When people enter the room, greet them and ask them to sit down in groups with people that they do not know (and preferably who they do not look like – age, gender, ethnicity, ability, style, etc.)
2. Have each group go round and do a short (60 seconds or less, or 2 sentences maximum) intro of themselves and what they do.
3. Have everyone go around the circle and tell the group 1 thing they would like to learn how to do (literally anything; does not have to be related to career or field).
4. Have everyone go around the circle and tell the group 1 thing that they feel that they could teach someone else to do (literally anything; does not have to be related to career or field).
5. Now shuffle the groups, and have everyone do the whole thing over again with new people.
That should take about an hour if you shuffle the groups twice. After that, yes, break out the booze and allow people to mingle. They now know a bunch of strangers, and have a bunch of things to talk about that are useful and might help build relationships, which will help build their careers.
THAT IS FUCKING NETWORKING.
There are other ways, but this one is pretty easy and works a treat.
The other thing is not networking, it’s just a reinforcement of shitty power structures that keeps people who have visible and invisible differences from accessing knowledgeable, connected people.
Do not allow yourself, your organization, or your conference to be complicit in reinforcing bullshit power structures and undermining newcomers’ ability to work.
**Image from a networking session that I’ve run two years in a row at Folk Music Ontario‘s annual conference. It’s always packed!
And I’m available to run these sessions as well – feel free to contact me!