When I first moved to Sydney I attended lots of so called "networking" events. Breakfasts, after work drinks and a few lunches organised by companies that were interested in selling stuff to people like me. I went with a nervous but positive attitude open to meeting new people who could potentially help me with things I needed help with. The result was that each business card that I handed out often resulted with a sales call to match. People trying to sell me things I didn't need. Ugh.
I don't do specific "networking" events anymore. There has to be more to attending and event than meeting a group of people, exchanging business cards and not much else. I am extremely selective in choosing what external events I attend. I have written about this previously.
The problem of these events is that the discussions start at a superficial level and sometimes don't extend beyond this. There is not enough time and often we don't know how to really get to know people in a short period of time. I can't help but think that speed dating is a bad idea for the same reasons.
For example, most "networking" events are somehow work related. Because of this the discussions start at where you work or what do you do. What you do can be different to who you are. I work in HR but this doesn't define completely who I am. It's not my purpose though my work is a way I can be congruent with my purpose.
This weekend I have been at the Problogger conference on the Gold Coast. There are lots of opportunities to "network" and lots of people who are willing to talk and share. The first question is either where are your from? (bloggers are here from Australia and overseas) or what you blog about? The great thing about bloggers (including me) is that they blog about topics they are passionate about. It's really easy to connect and build relationships when you can immediately talk to people about what they love. This is true networking.
I challenge you that when you next find yourself in a room full of strangers avoid asking someone what they do or where they work, but instead ask questions that uncover their passion and purpose.