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When attending networking events, don’t focus on the food.

I have been to more networking events than I can count, or even remember. The food at these events have ranged from beverage only to finger foods to full dinner. As I’ve observed people at these events, there is a constant pattern around food that keeps showing up: Some people are more focused on the food than the people to meet. That is interesting to me because in the end, aren’t we at a networking event to meet and connect with people?

Why do some people focus more on what’s on the menu instead of the people? I started asking people about their food focus at networking events and this is what I heard back:

  • I paid to attend a networking event that includes lunch, so I want to eat and get a lot of food for what I paid.
  • I find it really hard to interact with new people. The food allows me to have something to do with while I’m at a networking event.
  • I’m just hungry all the time! When I see food, I want to eat! Plus I paid for it, so why not eat?!

One thing I want to be clear about is that I am not anti-food, I am however, pro-people. You can eat before/after an event, right? There have been times that I’ve left a lunchtime networking event and found myself hungry, so I grabbed something to eat before my next meeting. It doesn’t bother me that I am paying for more food, because I focused on the opportunity to connect with people that are at the event more than getting calories into my body. I do eat when there is food, I just don’t make food the reason for why I’m at the networking event.

Another concern about food at networking events is the potential for getting it on your clothes, or causing a mess. I have seen people pile up food on their plate and then get messy because they have taken too much at one time and can’t manage the food very well. That is tough to watch because other people get turned off by that kind of behavior.

In the end, go ahead and eat. Just don’t over eat and make it all about the food. Instead, be there to connect with people… it is not a “eating event”, but rather a “networking event” after all.

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