There are a lot of events to go to if you are interested in entrepreneurship, startups and/or technology. It seems like every week there are breakfast, lunch and dinner time outings about all kinds of stuff. Weekdays, weekends, hackathons, startup challenges, competitions, meetups, networking nights, launches, ignitions, sparks, clubs – you name it, there is probably someone, somewhere, planning an event for it. Which is awesome, right? Right! I love that there are so many events to choose from.
Some of my personal favorites are LaunchUp here in Utah and StartupWeekend (around the USA and coming to SLC next month). I also enjoy seeing friends from social networks at lunch. There are others that happen out of state that are really interesting (too many to list). There are still others that have industry specific focuses that are sometimes relevant to what I’m working on. I go to those with meetings set up in advance. Going to events with meetings before, during and after can be pretty efficient if it’s done to close deals and not just schmooze. It’s fun to say you are at this or that conference or meetup, but it’s even more fun if you get with 10 people while there and knock out 10 great meetings for your company, project or job.
While there are some great options to choose from, there are certainly plenty of events that are bad as well. I won’t name those but suffice it to say I’ve been to a few over the years. Overall you could make a full time job out of attending conferences and events if you’d like to. Some people seem like that is exactly what they are doing.
The position I’m in now is a bit unique in that I need to represent different groups at certain venues – so I’m at more events then ever before. It is a lot of fun. I enjoy meeting all kinds of people and really trying to get the most value out of these new interactions. Sometimes I find myself speaking or MC’ing at these types of events as well – so my attendance is definitely required in these cases. Anyhow, it’s easy for me to be at these events because it makes sense for what I do now.
I contrast that to when I was trying to build companies. I had little if any time to go to events at all. I made it to a few really big events to connect with peers, investors and customers when I could, but I had absolutely no room for anything beyond that. It wasn’t even a temptation; I didn’t want to spend the time or money to go to something when I was so head-down running a business. That was where the fun was for me. That was where the money was, too. Why would I want to be away from fun and money? My time is valuable. Again, I’d go to things where customers, investors and partners where once in awhile, but I always did so with a plan, something measurable, that I’d be getting from going. I had meetings set up in advance. When I travel now, I still have a plan and I still get something measurable out of any event I attend. When it’s a longer event, I cram stuff into my day morning, noon and night. It’s hectic but I am sure to get everything I can out of it.
So here’s the rub. Now that I’m attending more events, I see many of the same people attending as well. In fact, it seems as though I see some people every time – no matter what event I am at. While some of them are doing things like me, most of them are running startups or trying to start a business – yet they are at all of these events.
What is wrong with this picture?
I’m assuming it’s because they aren’t engaged enough in their own business or worse, they really don’t have much of a business at all. If they were, there simply would not be enough time (or interest) to go to so many different events. Let me emphasize, there are some events that you should be at to help grow your business – but there are very few that meet that criteria. What I’m talking about are the people I see at nearly all of these events, regardless of the topic, time or location. They are professional networkers. They don’t realize how valuable that time is. I wish they’d spend as much time/money trying to close deals instead. Bottom line – don’t be a professional networker.
Be a part of a community, go to things, meet your peers, partners, investors and customers. Just make it an occasional thing.