I guess I can’t really call it a series until I have more than one post on the subject, so here is the second in my non-regular series about general event types and the tactics, tips, and techniques we can use to make them pay off.
As with the lunch-time networking event that we discussed yesterday, most breakfast gatherings follow a pretty predictable agenda:
- Open networking
- Open networking
Also as with the lunch event, the final open networking tends to be fairly brief. Folks are ready to get into the office by that point and don’t tend to linger, so don’t count on getting all your networking done in that last chunk of time.
The biggest differences between a breakfast and a lunch gathering are twofold: The time of day and the guest list.
OK, before you say “duh!” on that first one, here’s why it’s important: The people who show up will often be sleepy and hungry. We have to be aware of that and have to adjust our behaviors accordingly.
As far as the guest list (attendees) goes, I’ve noticed that these early morning gatherings tend to have a little more of the “suit set” to them. Business owners and executives who won’t have time in the middle of the day, will take time before business hours to get in some networking.
Tactics, Tips, and Techniques
As I mentioned before, many people will show up hungry and sleepy. Networking will not be the first thing on their minds. The location of the coffee and breakfast buffet will be. The first tip is not to be one of them. It’s hard to network effectively when your physical needs are distracting you. Take a few minutes before you leave for the event to eat a little something and have your first cup of coffee (assuming that is your “wake me up” of choice). Yes, I know there will be food and coffee at the event. That’s not why you are going though.
Most people won’t thing to prepare like this, so they will make a bee-line for the coffee urns. Make sure you know where they are so that, one, you can direct people to them (making you a hero) and/or, two, you can station yourself near them so you can meet people who have just had their mood chemically adjusted. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but I know many who are. That first sip in the morning brings a lot of pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with associating yourself with those good feelings.
The fact that a lot of people are hungry means that they have a tendency to move toward the breakfast buffet as soon as it opens and from there to find a seat in order to get sustenance into their body. Usually I recommend doing your networking standing up for as long as possible, but for breakfast meetings a good rule of thumb is to split the difference. Spend about half of the time networking at the breakfast table. The downside is that it limits your networking to the one or two people immediately around you once you’re seated. The upside is that if you aren’t in the first rush when the buffet opens, you can then get your food and pick a table which is already almost full. You never want to discover yourself at an empty table — wasted networking time!
Of course, you’ll still practice the good techniques that you would at any networking event. Set your goals, act like a host, show up early, offer to help, etc. The time of day will just make you tweak those activities to fit in better with the natural behaviors of the other attendees.