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Are networking events really worth it?

There are few business assets as valuable as a strong network of connections

Like the old saying goes, it's not what you know but who you know. Unless you're operating in a very niche area or possess an exceptional talent, the reality is there are many other people out there who could do your job or provide the service you offer.

So why do people choose to do business with Person X rather than Person Y? More often than not, we all prefer to do business with those we've had the chance to meet and get to know a little. So the relevant question for anyone ambitious isn't whether they should network but rather what networking events they should attend and how to get the most out of those events.

When considering whether it's worthwhile attending that Chamber of Commerce meeting, trade show or industry event, there is only one pertinent question: will it be a target-rich environment in terms of potential clients or employers, or at least people who can refer you to potential clients or employers? If the answer is yes, you should try to attend.

Choosing where to network is easy compared to actually doing it (ask anyone who's ever stood alone in the corner trying to figure out how to connect with complete strangers). Rest assured, everyone else is probably feeling similarly awkward and will respond positively if you take the initiative and engage them in conversation.

Once you have struck up a conversation, avoid the temptation to either indulge in the hard sell or talk yourself up. Like dating, networking works best when you are being yourself. You should also be thinking about how you can help the other person out, rather than just what they can do for you – as with any relationship, the dynamic has to be two-way for it to flourish.

There are few business assets as valuable as a strong network of connections, especially when you experience a setback. An investment of time and energy in starting and nurturing relationships with those who can help you achieve your goals invariably pays off in the long term.