Forget making friends being expensive. These days you can’t even afford the hefty price of admission at a lot of the most popular business networking events around if you’re a self-employed freelancer, unless you’re one that charges $100+ for your services.
And honestly (no offense to those who charge those steep prices), but whose services are that good?
If you’re anything like me, you’re not a high-roller and you’re not even all that convincing at playing the part by wearing the designer threads to get noticed. You’re just trying to make more business happen by expanding your community of offline contacts.
While I know there are a gazillion events like NetParty or NetMixer that are all about mingling to the beat of beer, billiards, or disco balls, my heightened sense of self-awareness won’t allow me to feel that these aren’t entirely a waste of my time.
Maybe, it’s the anti-social entrepreneur in me.
I prefer events that host some sort of themed panel showcasing a few successful businessmen/women who have sought out unique and innovative business solutions – people that I can learn from and introduce myself to. Preferably Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.
Unfortunately once you get keynote speakers involved (and I’m not talking Microsoft or Apple caliber, here), the price tag of an event jumps like tenfold. In fact, it’s an all-out class war between those who make a ton of bling and the rest of us.
As a Boston native, I scour Garysguide.org daily looking for the right event to complement my work style and brand attitude. Otherwise everything feels too forced.
Since I’m a little out of practice when it comes to these events as the last “networking” event I attended was almost 3 years ago (and that was because a buddy of mine put a figurative gun to my head), tiny, baby steps in the wading pool make the most sense. The best find I’ve come across for such an event is Steve Garfield‘s Boston Media Makers. It’s informal and friendly enough to mingle comfortably, and also helps with practicing that elevator pitch since the Sunday brunch starts with people going around the table and talking for less than 3 minutes each about what is they do.
Think this is an easy task?
Think again…But it’s a low-risk environment and a great, supportive crowd to introduce yourself to. I’m sure similar events take place around the country and if they do, you should jump on the bandwagon. And did I mention it’s free, apart from the price of food?
But back to pricey events…
Since I write from time to time on issues of women in the workplace and starting their own businesses, I had a particularly strong interest in attending MIT’s Women In Technology Workshop. “What better way to band with the sisters and learn and grow from each other’s experiences?” I told myself.
Unfortunately, even at the early bird rate of $325/pp for a day’s session, I realized this was a VIP event and the likes of the average woman on a shoestring budget weren’t welcome.
Same thing for the Creative Direct Marketing Strategies Seminar day session I wanted to attend. This one involved a little more hands-on training, but at $1699/pp for “non-members,” and $1399/pp for “members” I came to conclude that even if I were a member of this club, I wouldn’t be able to afford the price to belong.
Alas, there has to be a constructive networking event/group that would want to have me as its participant, it just might take some more diggin’ before I find it.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to network online at will.