Help Us Make the Biggest, Best Networking Event Possible

We’re putting together a networking event for September, and we want your input to help us make it as big and valuable as it can possibly be.

The way we look at it, virtually everyone on the planet would be better off if they networked more effectively. We are all looking for something, and if we could get just a little better at building relationships with other people and talking with people about what we’re after, we could get closer to what we’re looking for. Because the more people know about us and know what we’re up to, the more possibility we create.

So we want to create an event for as many people — and as many different kinds of people — as possible.

We want people who are looking for clients, people who are looking to get hired, people who are looking to hire or recruit, people who are looking for volunteers for their nonprofit organization, people who are looking for advice or resources or… just about anything.

At this event, we’re going to help people get clear about:

  • How to talk about yourself so that people understand who you are and what you do
  • How to talk about what you’re after, so that they get how they can help you
  • How to network, so that people like you, and want relationships with you, and want to help you

And then we’re going to give people time to network with each other, putting into practice all of the stuff we just talked about.

We’ve done this event publicly many times over the years.

And we’ve done it privately, inside of businesses and nonprofits that want their team members to get better at networking with prospects, clients, and strategic alliances.

We’ve also done it inside of organizations that have a mandate for their members to network: Professional associations, Chambers of Commerce, Alumni Associations, Dislocated worker agencies, Business schools.

Now we’re looking to take it to the next level.

  • We’re talking to all of the Chambers throughout a county to join forces around a single event.
  • We’re looking at getting a hosting venue involved, so they can benefit from the exposure.
  • We’ll be inviting business schools to send their graduating students and their alumni.
  • We’ll be talking to dislocated worker agencies to send their professionals who are in between opportunities to participate.
  • We’ll be talking to the media to get the word out about this, because this isn’t just designed to help individuals, it’s designed to contribute to the community

We’re doing this to mix it up, to make some noise, and to make a difference with the community. We want to show as many people as possible that they can create new possibilities for themselves by leading productive conversations with anybody.

We want to remind people how uniquely valuable face-to-face networking is, because it’s all about creating meaningful, human relationships with people who know people.

And now we’re looking for your help.

We want your ideas about how to make this even bigger and better.

Who should we invite to participate? What kinds of companies should send their team members? What organizations should be involved in this? Who can benefit from having their people get better at representing themselves and the business they work for and the organizations they support?

Tell us what you would have us do to optimize the value of the attendees. How much time should be spent learning how to network better? How much time should be provided in the actual networking practice? What would you have happen?

If you could design the ideal networking experience for yourself, what would it look like?

We’re excited to hear what you have to share.




  1. Anne Pryor on July 31, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Thanks Pete, I am interested in meeting with people on the edge of what’s next – businesses, technology, jobs, soul communication.

    I would like to see neighborhoods of people with like interests in one room where I can sample the neighborhoods – meet new neighbors – where there is a big friendly neighbor / host – to greet and provide introductions to many – like a speed dating in the neighborhoods.

    Count me in.

    I rust not knowing,

    • Abe WalkingBear Sanchez on July 31, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Great idea.


    • Pete Machalek on July 31, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Cool idea, Anne. When you say “neighborhoods,” are you using that literally or figuratively? Is a neighborhood a physical area of the Twin Cities? Or is it a conceptual area of background that a group of people share?

  2. Joe Fleury on July 31, 2014 at 8:26 am

    The best networking events that I have been to, have a maximum of two people: me and another person.

    A good conversation between two people sure beats a superficial conversation among several people.

    Have an event that pairs people up for a period of time. That is why golf outings work well.

    • Pete Machalek on July 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Great point, Joe. When we facilitate networking, we make the point that two people talking is always the best way to go, and either of these two people can “drive” the conversation to keep it on track. It is common for conversations to organically develop into groups of 3 or more so that everyone feels like they’re involved in a conversation, but that makes the conversation harder to be productive for those individuals involved. I appreciate the confirmation of this!

  3. Ryan Kleinjan on July 31, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Fleury’s comment above. I will give my feedback under a few premises:
    1. If the event was to help folks better develop their networking ‘skills’ – I think that this becomes a case of size (attendees) – obviously the more people, the better. The most key factor here strikes me as providing an attractive event, venue, and communicating it well.
    2. If the event was to connect businesses to do, well, business – this can be a bit more complicated. The best events I had were ‘filtered’ meaning to control the number of ‘sales people’ in the event (I know, its painful, I have worn the sales hat most of my career). Another component would be consistency in the individual’s purpose – is it businesses-serving-businesses or businesses-serving-individuals? (I have walked out of several events when I found myself ‘swimming’ in clothiers, car/homeowners insurance agents, and personal retirement planners). If you have a large enough pool of interested attendees in which you will market the event to – control the number of different roles and business-types. If the event is lacking in an attractive/beneficial guest-type – you must not be afraid to provide incentive to those individuals.

    Another consideration on this front is that not everyone is comfortable just wondering into conversation. To further expound (albeit another angle) on Mr. Fleury’s point – an activity or event like golf allows individuals to share a common ‘activity’ to discuss which can parlay into more personal and business related conversations. Many of the most intelligent, successful business people are not ‘opt’ to strike a conversation with anyone – they must recognize an obvious business or personal interest to engage in conversation. Random example – I have found some of the best networking were at trade shows that dropped the bar in the middle of the show-floor and allowed people to both drink and chat as they walked the floor – bringing just enough ‘casualness’ to the environment to allow them to ask questions (or maybe it was just the alcohol!!).

    Long story shortened — bring together the right mix and monitor that mix. Position the event to induce conversation – even none business – whether that be an event, a ‘game’, or merely building the setting to allow people to ability to visually present themselves (modified trade show floor, etc) to encourage this.

    If I think of any other musings – I will be happy to add back.

    Good luck Pete & Co – I am excited to see what you come up with!


    • Pete Machalek on July 31, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Ryan, thank you so much for your extensive and nuanced thoughts on the topic!

      Our goal with this event is to give people increased comfort in launching and piloting conversations with people they don’t know, and to increase their skills in leading these conversations to make sure they’re productive for everyone involved.

      I totally agree that very often people seem to need external reasons like golf to put them into the same space together and create a “reason” for them to start conversations with each other. I want this event to mitigate this need and give folks tools they need to be able to start conversations with others. What do you think?

  4. Marge on July 31, 2014 at 9:57 am

    If you haven’t already, I would suggest engaging some of the job groups, such as St. Andrews Church. Also, retain your current connections, such as Toastmasters.

    Looking forward to it!

    • Pete Machalek on July 31, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Great idea, Marge! Once we’ve landed on a location, we’ll start reaching out to organizations like this. Are there specific ones in addition to St Andrews Church that you would like to point us toward? Or do you have any thoughts about online resources where we could find such organizations to reach out to?

      Thank you!

  5. Fred Herron on July 31, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Given that this will be a large gathering I think this might work.

    I was at function that arbitrarily assigned you a group number as you came in. After the brief presentation that addressed some of the “hows” of cold introductions they broke us out into our groups to discuss and refine what we heard. Once this was done we all were challenged to go out and practice on 6 people who were unknown to us. If there was a connection then all the better. We then got together and some volunteers discussed their experience with supporting commentary from the experts.

    As for the audience I think those who are in transition, experts/consultants in this work, and hiring managers should be invited. There is a lot of upside for all concerned.

    The exercise in communicating for the sake of getting comfortable with delivery to an unknown can be valuable.

  6. Ric Hinkie on July 31, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    A mosh pit of people is fine, but they should have the chance to self-select subgroups of interest. Consider a “speed dating” kind of experience at two levels. One to let them get a 2-3 minute picture of what a subgroup is about and what they are going to do in the next hour or so. Then at the next level down, once they have chosen a subgroup about power networking for example, use the “speed dating” kind of situation and have two individuals spend 2-3 minutes practicing on each other, then switch, etc.

    Other group offerings can attract other interests.

    If a session on how to make a career plan (90% of employees don’t have one is of interest, we should talk. My book Fast Forward Your Career is based upon interviews with 60 senior execs from Apple to Xcel Energy (many interviewees from the TC area). It’s goal is to help employees not make the three classic career mistakes and to use the 7 principles of career success that the interviewees discovered when they were moving ahead faster than their peers. There is a 12 page workbook that results in an actual plan. One of the principles is Get Connected and Get Noticed, a topic near and dear to your team.

    The biggest issue for me would be delivering value in terms of actionable information, not just a big room of bodies. Your history is clearly value centered, don’t trade that for a crowd.

    • Pete Machalek on August 4, 2014 at 12:43 am

      Your Career Plan book sounds like it’s very helpful for your clients, Ric!

      And thank you for the cautionary advice. We will indeed focus on providing value, like we always do, regardless of the number of people who show up. And I’m confident that everyone who participates will get a tremendous amount out of the experience, not only from our training, but from the opportunities for practice that the other participants will be providing.

  7. Nigel Bath on August 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Hello. Pete, you know I am a great supporter of what you do and have both participated and helped facilitate your events in the past. Firstly, I should state that I have to credit you and Dean for teaching me how to network properly. In spite of hearing about networking for the last seven years or so on a fairly regular basis and the need for companies and employees of those companies to learn this skill I continue to be amazed at the over-simplification some apply to this sophisticated process.
    For myself, I like the idea of an event organized and facilitated by your company; it will be a worthwhile investment. But I am reluctant to attend because I am among the ranks of the unemployed. Now you would probably say that is exactly why you should attend. But, here’s my reservation. And, I have a feeling others maybe or have been in the same boat. While I have very little difficulty initiating a conversation with a total stranger; when it comes to telling them that you are seeking employment, you can almost see their eyes glaze (even roll) and what I perceive as a burden.
    Therefore I would like to suggest some form of filter too. Perhaps a color coded name tags which tells others I am most interested in meting people for this reason.
    While I understand that there would be privacy issues to deal with how about a prospectus of attendees with company name and interest sent to everyone ahead of time so that they can focus on the persons/companies they would most like to meet? Regards, Nigel

    • Pete Machalek on August 4, 2014 at 12:46 am

      Interesting idea, Nigel! Let me see if this takes care of your concerns at all:

      Almost every session of BE CONNECTED has had some people in attendance who are looking for a job. We always have a movement for how to talk about yourself in the session, and we will go out of our way to spell it out for people looking for the next position. There are ways to do it that avoid that “eye-rolling” reaction in the other person.

      We hope you can join! Stand by for details!

  8. Chuck Darrell on August 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I like the ideas above and would be especially interested in meeting with small business owners that are interested in programs that help build customer loyalty.
    Also, small businesses that want to offer more benefits to their employees, but don’t have the money to do it.

    • Pete Machalek on August 7, 2014 at 12:18 am

      Thanks for your input, Chuck! Bear in mind, networking isn’t the same as selling. It’s not about being paired off with a perfect prospect for you, it’s about building relationships and presenting yourself in a way where the people you talk to want to have a relationship with you, and understand you well enough to be able to share you as a resource to good prospects.

  9. Rory Abegg on August 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I would suggest “speed dating” as a way to host a networking event as mentioned above. It allows for greater exposure for everyone involved. It also allows people to practice networking. Another would be a round robin type of event. Everyone gets a few minutes to introduce themselves and what it is they are trying to accomplish.

    With other events timing is everything, either you are waiting to get a chance to meet someone or you have to kind of interrupt a conversation to meet the person, not the best first impression. Many useful connections are missed when it is an unstructured event or social hour.

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