Creating a Networking Event That Doesn't Suck


I love having coffee with other entrepreneurs. I love hearing their struggles, hearing their wins, and I love figuring out a way to connect them.

Every entrepreneur I have coffee with (or tea, more than likely), is so smart, hard-working, and pushing through some difficult challenge or has just pushed through a difficult challenge.

And when I'm sitting down with them, all I can think of is "This person's job is so cool! How can I recommend to other people who need what she can offer? Who can I introduce her to that would benefit from her expertise? Heck, how can I hire this person in the future to help me be better at my business?"

You know what this is called?

This is called networking.

But you know what networking looks like when someone mentions it to me?

50 pairs of eyes, staring me up and down when I walk into a "networking event." Deciding if I matter or not.

Not knowing a single person at the event. And being the girl in the corner nervously munching on celery and pretending to be interested in the paint colors on the walls.

Feeling like someone is always trying to sell me. And in return, I have to sell them. And if I don't, I don't matter.

So which picture do you prefer? Coffee with amazing lady or scary room full of exclusive "somebodies"?

Why You Need to Change This

I assume if you're reading this blog, you'd define yourself as a creative entrepreneur. Maybe you don't create art per se, but your business model stems from seeing a problem and executing a creative solution for that problem.

I'd also guess (based on my writing and my inherently overexcited personality) that you get the whole concept of being a forward-thinking, entrepreneur, rather than one who operates under the idea that you should wear a business suit to meetings with potential clients.

Assuming those two things above, you probably would choose scenario number 1 above, am I right?

And yet, we still have networking events popping up that follow this old format. Someone needs to change it, and it needs to be you!

People crave community and connection (Brene Brown, anyone?). Your people crave this. Your people probably also crave inclusion, authenticity, honesty, and organic conversation. I know I do! I know my clients do! And I know my clients' clients do.

So let's change this, shall we? Let's engage the people we want to partner, collaborate, and YES, even network with, in a way that feels real to us.

Let's stop spouting elevator pitches and start asking people what's hard about their business/life/juggle.

Let's stop deciding if people "matter" in the first 30 seconds of looking at them, and decide that you matter enough to listen to them speak.

Let's stop with the terrible food and the terrible speeches and start with honoring attendees as experts, partners, and the creator of an enormous world shift.

I know I'd attend an event like that. Would you?

If this post resonated with you, share in the comments below what you HATE about networking events. And then (because I like leaving stuff on a positive note), please share what one thing you'd love to have at a networking event (people I've asked this on Facebook said "fire-dancers", "backrubs", and "hugs")!

Lauren CaselliComment