Networking events come in all shapes and sizes and each individual event has its own “personality” which can make it a better or worse opportunity for us. Still, we can group most gatherings into larger categories which all share similar attributes. This is the first of a non-regular series about the different types of events and some of the specific tactics, tips, and techniques to use when attending it.

The luncheon is the quintessential archetype of the networking event. Almost every networking organization has one and most of them follow a similar agenda:

  1. Open networking
  2. Lunch
  3. Speaker
  4. Open networking
Often that last networking is a bit abbreviated as most people are trying to leave the event in order to make it back into the office.
In my experience, a majority of lunchtime networkers are not the decision makers in the office. Instead you will meet a lot of sales associates, customer account reps, and business development types. Oh, you’ll also meet a smattering of sole proprietors. This is neither good nor bad, just something to be aware of. If you are trying to meet CEOs and other high-level executives, unless the group specifically caters to them, you aren’t as likely to see them at a networking luncheon.
Tactics, Tips, and Techniques.

As always, you should find out who the speaker will be. When you do, think of who in your network would enjoy learning more about that topic. Pass along the information to them marked “FYI”. Alternatively, you can invite them as your guest (just be sure you are clear about  who’s paying if there is a fee).
Of course, whether you invite a guest or not, it should go without saying that you should show up at least ten minutes early with a specific networking goal in mind. Remember that most open networking lasts around fifteen to twenty minutes. Showing up just ten minutes early effectively increases your networking time by about 50%.
Because it is such a networking tradition, the lunchtime gatherings also tend to attract a lot of first-time attendees and first-time networkers. Do yourself and them a favor by offering to help out and introduce them to the folks that you know. Be a host, even if you didn’t help organize the event.
The lunch event is pretty much the standard against which all other networking opportunities are measured. Especially if you are new to the world of networking, the lunch event can be a great place to practice your networking technique.
You might even develop a few new connections, too!