EVERY month throughout most states in Australia, organisations like GLOBE hold networking events where business owners and professionals who identify as LGBTI come together in a safe space to meet.
Do people that come do these events actually network and build business, or is it just an excuse to potentially meet a partner, a love interest or just someone to add to your Grindr favourites?
And my answer, after four years, has remained exactly the same: you get out it what you put into it.
Throughout my time at GLOBE I think I have seen it all at my events. I have seen people find work, I have seen those that have found a new electrician, a new lawyer or someone to help them with their website. I have seen people meet other LGBTI people who work in the same field, and sometimes in the same company.
I have met newcomers to Melbourne, who have been transferred here from interstate and overseas, who have made a new circle of friends. I have seen people who have met someone for a bit of fun and those who have met the love of their life.
There are those that use the monthly catch up to get together with their mates, while others tell me that our events are the only time that they get to connect back with the LGBTI community.
All of the above are valid uses of any networking event.
Networking at its simplest form is not about the instant gratification of getting a quick sale — it is about the connections that one creates to others in the community. The objective of any networking event is to meet new people, interact with others and develop professional or social contacts.
Business, sales, friendship, love takes more than a single person and networking is about using a common element (such as being at the same event) to meet people, break the ice and test whether the potential connection is right for your needs.
So what should you do if you are heading to a networking event? Try some of these tips:
> Go with a purpose in mind. Know before you get to an event the reason why you are attending. Are you just catching up with friends? Are you interested in making connections? Or are you wanting to meet some new people? Being clear about your goal is a major step towards making it happen.
> Practice your elevator pitch. Regardless whether you are going to an event for business reasons or to meet new friends, it is an essential skill to be able to tell people about yourself. It is amazing how many people I see stumble over a simple question like “tell me about yourself?”.
> Jump in and welcome others. It is a common understanding at networking events that people are there to meet others, so don’t feel shy about jumping in and saying hello to someone new. Organisers, like myself and committee members, are there to make this easier so if you don’t know anyone speak to an organiser and ask them to introduce you around. That’s the job of a host, after all. On the other hand, if you are in a group, readily welcome others who are alone.
> Follow up. Networking is not just about how many people you meet, but what you do with those connections after. Follow up with people that you meet on the night and consider how you can help them — not just how they can help you.
Regardless of what it is that you are looking for from networking, you will find what you are looking for from our Blended Fruits events or the networking events from our friends in other cities.
David Micallef is the president of the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Business and Enterprise (GLOBE) in Melbourne.
**This article was first published in the April edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.
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