I love to get some inspiration from a range of events, be it presentations, seminars or network meetings. Most of them come with a mingle-part in the beginning, in the end or both. I have always felt the pressure to make meaningful contacts during those mingles. Until I realized that sometimes it can be as meaningful to sit out the contact phase and be for yourself a bit.
One important learning from all the events I have been to is that you don’t need to talk to someone if you are not in the mood. And if you talk to people and they have nothing valuable to say, don’t feel like you have to stay. You don’t have to keep your networks “warm” after the event. Most likely, when you didn’t click during an event, you will not do so afterwards. My ultimate test for my event-recaps is if I have anything clever to write to individualize my LinkedIn invitation. If nothing more than “nice to meet you yesterday – hope you enjoyed the event.” comes to my mind – I don’t send out the request.
Generally, I believe that people are good. With many people in one place however, as much as there are nice people, there will be idiots. The event description will tell you that you will meet only highly talented and exceptional individuals. But in reality, you will meet as much people you don’t like as you like. If you can’t find anyone who’s contributing to your current challenge or the presentation is boring – it’s okay to leave early. If this leaves you with a bad conscious, you can always skim the attendee list afterwards and contact someone you wanted to talk to via other channels.
Good conferences live by speakers and participants, but without a good backbone, meaningful conversations and co-creation won’t happen. You spot quite earlier when there is no clear concept for a conference and when team tasks are not thought through. Then all networking is doomed to fail. That’s not the participants’ nor the presenters’/experts’ fault. Networking is more meaningful when facilitated properly. Unfortunately that facilitation does not always happen. A pulse check which works for me is to go all by myself. If I find it easy to connect to others, the conditions are set right in most cases.