To quickly answer the question in my title, I don’t know. But, I am getting ahead of myself. When we started Magnus in 1993 it seemed like it might be worthwhile to network in certain ways. One of them was to join the Chamber of Commerce and go to the early morning breakfast meetings. It is not inexpensive to join such an organization and one must be committed to attending because of the costs, as well as the time demands. Because of the cost, I did not join as soon as we started the business, but did so when it seemed within our budget. And, I dutifully attended for a few years. Similarly, I joined other organizations and attended other breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings, happy hours, and other gatherings as networking events (I do not intend this post to “pick on” Chambers of Commerce). Networking requires special skills, and to make the most of it, it requires a unique personality – one who likes to mingle and glad hand. Those are not my particular strengths so that perhaps, in part, has left me undecided as to whether the time and other costs are worth it to attend. The truth is that I have met some interesting people along the way but it is also true that, if one’s purpose in attending these meetings is to make business contacts, it is important to be strategic in choosing which groups to attend. It very much depends on what type of business, product, or service one has to offer that should drive attendance at such groups. Some groups are more service driven than others (for example, Rotary) and the service part appeals to some people more than others – it may be a reason to participate without regard to the networking. But, back to the question of is it worth the time and effort to go to these events? The answer is only if it has business targets who are in an environment where you can have a conversation or make introductions to follow up on later. In my experience many of these groups are dominated by attendees of a certain type who are not my target audience. So, it was only after attending and observing that I could assess whether the time and money was well spent from a marketing perspective. The realization I have come to is that there are only a few groups that are worth my time and money. The message is, given limited and time and money resources, one must not over extend in participating in these events unless a return, or other reward, can be found there. Instead, carefully evaluate your options and test the waters before paying sometimes pricey membership fees or dues.
A long time client of Magnus recently told David that David has the hardest job in our company, in that it involves performing many tasks people often consider undesirable. One of these tasks is attending networking functions, including those disguised as “social events” because adult beverages are served. Of all the networking events David has attended over the decades we have been in business, nothing, in my opinion, is worse than a so called “breakfast meeting.” Breakfast meetings usually occur at a time far earlier than David and I usually eat breakfast. In addition, because they are held in locations other than in our home, early morning travel is required to network and consume breakfast that is usually not entirely tasty. I have never, ever, attended a breakfast meeting and I never, ever plan to attend one. Meetings at lunch time are far more attractive to me, particularly when they are held at an upscale restaurant. I have attended many lunch meetings with clients and prospective clients, although it is David who regularly attends networking meetings with a large number of attendees. David also attends networking functions during evening hours, when I am home playing the bass guitar, “networking” with musical notes. I have little confidence in the utility of networking meetings when they are attended by people other than our typical client, a high powered attorney who litigates civil cases. Many of these networking meetings have resulted in David forming business relationships with nice people, but few of them have led to any revenue. I dislike breakfast meetings to the point that David no longer attends them. Being woken up early for him to glad hand a few sleepy people while eating rubbery scrambled eggs has never paid off for Magnus. On top of that, paying exorbitant dues or other entrance fees for something that is mostly an exercise in futility is not part of our business model. My answer is a firm “NO!” when I am asked if breakfast (and most other) networking meetings are worth it. (And, thanks David, for doing the hard work on behalf of Magnus!)