How much time should I spend at networking events?

Famously, I have spent rather a lot of time attending business networking events. In the last ten years I have attended over 1000 events and still make sure I am at several events every month. This is where I meet potential clients and, more importantly, continue to learn about networking and how to make it more effective.
When I work with clients, one of the questions I am asked regularly is “how much time should I spend at networking events” or “how many business networking events should I attend every week” or something similar. Recently, and maybe surprisingly for such an advocate of networking, I have advised one of my clients to cut down on the number of events they were attending, which inspired me to write this article, which I hope is helpful.
It is really easy to convince yourself that you are busy building your business by going along to as many networking meetings as you can possibly fit in. After all, you’re meeting all these people, talking about your business, giving out business cards – what’s not to like?
Trust me, I’ve done this. I ended up with the world’s fullest address book, and absolutely no business to show for it. When I first meet my clients they are often in the same situation.
With networking, I learnt that it isn’t just about the meetings. Your success in networking has at least as much to do with what you do after and in between networking meetings, and this needs to be worked into your diary too.
Something very common is I find that people¬†are spending so much time networking, that they never have time to follow up and keep in touch with the people that they meet. They often¬†don’t allow time for developing and growing their business either, as meeting people and being seen at networking feels much busier than working on stuff at home or in the office.
It is vitally important to find the right balance. To make sure that for everyone you meet at a networking event, that you have ten minutes or so to make sure you follow up and make a plan to keep in touch.
It is just as important to ensure that you have time to develop your business, to listen to the feedback you will receive at networking meetings (some of which will be silent feedback) and take that feedback and apply it to your business.
It was often said to me that “if you’ve got something better to do, go and do that instead”. The other stuff which we have to do sometimes isn’t obvious though, I have always made sure I have advisors and mentors around me who help me to define what else I have to do in the business, so I don’t just drift into the activities which help me to feel busy, even if they’re not productive.
The answer then, to “how much time should I spend networking” is the same as the answer to so many questions – “it depends”. Make sure that as well as networking, you are taking the actions which networking leads you to, as they are the actions which will lead to sales and to business growth. If you’re really busy, and not actually achieving anything, I hope that I have just given you some pointers.

“I implemented one more thing from the Retreat and it has resulted in a new client which gives me a positive ROI within 6 days”
Claire McTernan – Employee to Business Owner

“within two months I went from an average of one client per month from networking, to five clients”
Samantha Rollins, Trinity Accountants