This week I went to a networking evening in Bristol called South West Founders. I’ve been meaning to go for ages – since moving to Bath earlier in the year. I finally got around to it because I’d planned to meet with a friend, John Lynch, for a few beers – and we decided a trip to Bristol might work.

If you have read the blog before – you have probably seen my post “I HATE Networking”. That reports on a networking event in Bath that I attended – and hated. Interestingly enough, two guys spoke at that event who I have now become friends with (Mike Ellis and Dave Kelly).

I thought that tagging along with a pal might help with my dislike of networking events – and it did. John was great company – and filled in nicely during those initial “wallflower” minutes.

I’m known for being a little too flippant – it’s the “scouser” blood in me. When we arrived, we were given a couple of stickers to write our names on – and with a box to simply say why you are attending. In a rush, I decided my best/wittiest response was “I’m Driving John Home”.

This allowed me to make some anecdotal observations on the “networkers” at the event:-

BADGE SCANNERS – there were many people who would walk slowly around the room and scan badges. I watched a few of these – and when they read why I was there – promptly moved on without chatting (they assumed I was John’s chauffeur and just bumming a free drink).

WHAT DO YOU DO TYPES – there were some who engaged in conversation, but ignored me when they read the badge and focussed on chatting with John. Again, did say hello – but assumed I was not worth chatting to as I was just John’s driver

I’LL SPEAK TO ANYONE – there were many fun, open people too. They chatted about a variety of subjects, took an interest – and ignored the badge. If I’d had green hair – they would have been the same. My sort of people.

I did some preparation for the event. It was arranged via the MeetUp site – and all the attendees had a profile and contact details. There was no-one who specifically sprung out as a “must see” contact – but I did follow a few people on Twitter.

Interestingly, one of the guys who I followed on Twitter I didn’t get the chance to meet. However, we’ve since followed up/met on-line and are getting together early next week for a bite to eat and swap ideas.

Lessons learnt?

… for me … don’t be too flippant, it might put off people talking to you

… for others … never judge a book by its cover (or a guy by his name badge)

… and finally … off-line networking and on-line networking mix. The people who attend the same event probably have something in common. Don’t work the room, it’s a long term game – and you might be as likely to make that connection on-line. Do prep – and read the attendees list.

As for “Driving John Home”. I got badly lost in Bristol, couldn’t properly partake in the free drinks (kindly sponsored by the nice guys at local VC Eden Ventures) and then lost my car park ticket (had to pay an extortionate amount for a full day!). We’ll be taking the train next time – and I will be more sensible with what I write on my badge.