The entrepreneurial ecosystem and its networking nebula is a dangerous place. If you’re to survive you’ll need to find yourself a Canape Companion, dodge the Frat Stars and win patronage from a Benevolent Ruler. Read on to recognise the signs and protect yourself…
The Benevolent Ruler:
They know everyone, everyone knows them, and they’re the centre of attention. You know no one, no one wants to know you, and you’re being crushed in the not-so-orderly queue forming around them. So what if it was them that invited you to this event, you were a fool for thinking they’d have time for a minnow like yourself. But wait…they catch your eye and ease through a chorus of cheers towards you. Praise be to the Benevolent Ruler, saving you from the abyss of networking anonymity!
The Frat Star:
Wearing matching t-shirts, branded softshell jackets and sporting exaggerated West Coast accents, their hard to miss but harder to hide from. They walk over and ask you why there are so many NARPs at the event. A friend whispers “it means Non-Athletic Regular Person” before sliding off into the crowd. That’s when you realise…you’ve been trapped by the Frat Stars and you’re about to get bro’d. All of a sudden your holding two IPAs, your back’s been slapped three times in the last 20 seconds and you’re saying “I suppose London rent isn’t too bad”.
The Canape Companion:
You’re two hours into a networking drinks evening when it happens…you were hungry, but now your hangry. Pretending to rummage through your bag for a business card you break eye contact with your guest and scan the room desperately. Not so much as a cocktail sausage in sight. Promising yourself you’ll never pass on a prawn cracker again, you make your excuses and move out into the networking wilderness to begin foraging. It doesn’t take long to discover why the vol-au-vents never made it over. Half-blocking the kitchen door is your knight in shining armour. A fellow forager, they wave down a tray of smoked salmon blinis and thrust a dirty napkin in your direction. As you begin to introduce yourself they raise a hand saying ‘eat first, talk later’. You’ve found yourself a canape companion, and they’ve got your back.
The Cruel Master:
Once again you’ve accepted an invitation to an event where you know no one. But this time there’s a familiar face in the corner…Surely they’ll remember you from that awful ‘get-to-know-the-industry’ event 6 months ago? You walk over nervously, reintroduce yourself, and you’re safe. But wait…why are they looking over your shoulder? And why do they never introduce you to anyone they greet? Suddenly you realise what’s happened. You’re the serf of the networking fiefdom and that familiar face is the Noble. He’s throwing you just enough proverbial table scraps to keep you by his side but he’s a cruel master, and it’s going to be a long evening…
When it comes to networking he’s seen it, done it, and heard it all before. You look over enviously as he stands there alone, confidently sipping a beer, speaking to no one. He doesn’t need a group to join, he’s his own group…and that’s how he likes it. Lonely and exhausted in the networking wilderness, you take up a position next to him looking for protection. Close enough that it looks like you might know each other, but far enough away as to ensure it’s obvious there’s no need to speak. He looks at you, nods, and looks away. Instantly you feel safe. You’ve found yourself a Guardian; the Ajax to your Greek ships, the Hector to your Troy.
The Traitorous Snake:
You’re waiting patiently to speak to a VIP. Avoiding the cocktail-shrimp-guzzling-sweatball to your left, you turn to your right and strike up some small talk. A space opens in front and you step through, pulling your new friend into the VIPs outer sanctum. You stand together, an alliance forged. As you scan for entry points to the inner sanctum a gap appears and bang, your ally makes it through. Your arm outstretched you wait for his hand…but help never comes. You’ve got yourself a traitorous snake.
Recognise the signs, take precautions and stay safe out there…
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