I must confess I've always been bad at networking.
In a room full of smiling, chatty people trying to make connections, I would always stand awkwardly in a corner, quietly observing and sipping my drink. I've always thought of networking as a very artificial social situation whereby people interact with each other just to see what they can get out of it: a job, a contract, a tip to improve their skills... On one occasion, a very friendly and chatty freelancer asked me what my position in my company was, and after finding out that I didn't hold a management position and thus couldn't land him a contract, he quickly found an excuse to leave.
However, I recently had a very interesting conversation that changed the way I look at these things. My friend Cory, a Canadian marketer and enterpreneur, was telling me how much he loves digital nomad meetups because of the networking opportunities. I replied explaining my apprehensions around the whole thing.
The conversation moved on from there, going back to how we met each other (in April 2015 we both attended a 'workation' event in the south of Spain). Thinking about all the people I met in that event, and the strong friendships I've built with some of them, I mentioned how happy I was to have taken part in it. I went as far as saying that those were probably the best-spent 100€ in my life.
After hearing me speak about those friendships, Cory replied: "See? that's networking".
That was a moment of insight. That simple remark turned my views on networking completely upside down. It's not about who can offer you what. It's about finding something in common with the people you meet. It could be a similar view on the world, shared ideas about travelling or the kind of sports you practice; anything in common that can lead to a long-lasting friendship.
Next time I go to a professional event, instead of asking "so what kind of work do you do" I will ask "so, do you like watersports?". Maybe I will make the kind of friendships I want.
PS: Cory has recently launched his own product line... check it out!