I'm still learning and experimenting on the networking side, thought I'd share a few things I've seen or tried lately. I've been lucky enough to have a few dinners to attend lately, and each has presented some challenges:
- One was outside seating which was nice, but people weren't mixing much - I find it harder to break into a group that is seated than one that is standing
- Two had everyone seated at a long table, forcing me to mostly talk to those immediately next to me
- Not everyone wants to talk serious talk
So the obvious lesson is to adapt to the environment, but part of what I've been working on is time management; using my time to meet more people at a given event. Not as easy it sounds if the environment is working against you, but still worth trying to do. A less obvious lesson is the last point - not everyone wants to (or knows how) to network or just carry a conversation. For example, I see these particular dinners not just as networking opportunities but as a chance to share ideas, but sometimes others just want to have fun. Back to expectations, if it's a working dinner then I think it's fair to expect to talk shop, if it's a networking dinner I don't think wrong to want to meet, greet, and share, but if just dinner, then anything beyond fun is a win - heck, having fun isn't a loss.
All are good examples of book learning and ideas colliding with the real world, and nothing like experience to help you figure out ways to adjust.