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Miscellaneous Networking Thoughts

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.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Jack Corbett on 13 May 2009


Sometimes I think you might get better networking results out of fun than talking shop.  I think the examples you are using are from the PASS board meeting you already know that the technical folks there have good skills so knowing you can relax and have fun with them adds to the relationship.  How many times have people not been hired or not worked out because they don't "play with others well"

Posted by Steve Jones on 13 May 2009

Not talking shop, to me, is still networking. You are building a bond (or perhaps not doing so and learning this isn't a person to network with). It can get out of hand, and does, but it's got value.

I hate trying to work/network at dinners, unless I can specifically sit next to the person I need to talk to. Otherwise it doesn't work.

For networking, I think you need more people standing, and moving around. Flow is important. I also think there's value to having a few "knowledgable" hosts that can push people around a bit, or introduce people to each other. Like was done in the 19th century. A host would ensure people circulated and got to meet others.

Posted by Andy Warren on 14 May 2009

There's no doubt I'm in the learning/try hard phase of this and have to moderate it some.

Steve's point about the host is well made, if it's "supposed" to be a networking event there is definitely a role for the host to play, both in planning the location/seating and in facilitating introductions/discussion.

Jack, I totally agree that we don't have to talk queries all the time for it to add value. I just think fair to have expectations based on context. If it's billed as networking, then I don't think wrong to expect/try to focus on meeting new people and whether you talk shop or not depends on conversation style. If it's a "working" meal, I frankly tend to feel like my time is being wasted if we don't work - I might have elected to attend anyway, but as long as it's labelled as "working" I feel far more obligated than otherwise. For just one on one or small groups, it can go either way and I can live with that.

My views...so far anyway!

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