At eClub’s Weekly Entrepreneurs Brunch last week, the discussion focused on networking, asking entrepreneurs what they get out of networking events and assessing why many Arab entrepreneurs don’t like to attend.
When it comes to making local events more popular, some of these problems could help event organizers realize how to make their gatherings more inviting and in tune with the needs of participants.
So, why don’t people attend networking events? [These are eClub's conclusions]:
- Entrepreneurs may not be interested in the content of the event. It’s an intuitive point, but when organizing an event you should always ask yourself, “why should people care to come?” The answer could be because there’s an amazing speaker or there’s free food. For instance, it’s up to the organizer to make developers realize that they have something to gain from a networking event for designers. Even if the focus of the event does not directly align with your goals, you never know who you will meet that can help you in the future.
- Entrepreneurs sometimes just have too much to do at their startup to take time out to network. Employees of the same companies would rather get paid to work overtime than attend an event that doesn’t help them personally. Though of course founders and employees can both benefit from networking events, they can have trouble seeing the true advantage. Make the event worth their while.
- Many entrepreneurs don't see an immediate benefit to networking. Organizers should encourage entrepreneurs to see that although a new contact may not lead to immediate profits, it could save them in the long run.
- Some just have a huge ego and think that they don’t need other people to help them out. While this point can’t be easily overcome, by finding the right speakers or advertising other benefits, organizers could entice entrepreneurs to put aside their pride for a while to find a new partner or get an answer they couldn’t think of alone.
- A lot of entrepreneurs are ignorant about the advantages of networking. Be clear about why this event is worthwhile and pull them in with a hook. Educate them about the advantages and prepare them beforehand to be good participants.
- Others can’t get past a previous experience where they may have been refused or just had a really awkward moment. Offer a space where entrepreneurs are sure to have a good time, either by hosting at a great restaurant, using speed dating, or offering incentives for collecting business cards.
Despite all of these excuses and reservations, networking remains a critical foundation for any entrepreneur’s success. There are also several benefits to networking that these young entrepreneurs brainstormed.
Why is it important to attend networking events?
- Find new partners, sponsors, talent, or investors. Before a new partner makes a deal, they likely want to feel comfortable and get to know you as a person, which often can only be attained face-to-face. Networking provides that opportunity by bringing peers and stakeholders together who otherwise wouldn’t be in the same place. "People work with people they know how to deal with. I prefer to work with someone I know and have met because I know what to expect from them,” said one participant at the brunch.
- Observe the competition. Attending networking events gives you the opportunity to scout out the competition, see who they’re close with and how people perceive them. It may also give you the opportunity to see how you can build the ecosystem together.
- Get feedback from the community and see how they react to your ideas. There will likely be a pretty diverse crowd at your event and if you can get a new perspective on your model or product, it may make the difference in your marketing or future plans.
- Advertise yourself and your company for free. “Most of the clients I currently have for my design agency are people who I met during networking events,” said another participant. Networking events give you an opportunity to represent your brand, wear some swag and give new people an intro to your concept.
- Better understand emerging problems in the community and find ways to solve them. Networking events help you stay on top of what’s happening in the local ecosystem and lets people know that your brand is in touch with current trends. Get out there and build your reputation within the community.
Although they may sometimes seem less important than staying in the office to work, these events bring benefits that you are more likely to realize over time, eClub's entrepreneurs concluded, which is why they resolve to go. After all, it only takes 5 minutes of hearing about a new idea or meeting one new person to make the whole event worthwhile.