Dave Kentish’s response to the question below originally appeared in FMJ.
Do you think it is appropriate for an organisation to make socialising at industry events compulsory? What advantages are there to the individual and to the company? How does this conflict with the trend towards work-life balance?
THE COACH’S VIEW: DAVID KENTISH, DIRECTOR & CO FOUNDER KENTISH AND CO
Socialising at industry events is a great way to network both for the individual and for the company they work for and many people relish the prospect of meeting new people. Making sure that your company has a presence at events such as these builds awareness of your product or service.
The big question is, who should the organisation ask to attend? A blanket directive that staff should go to networking events is unproductive, because unless the position that someone holds makes networking part of their job description, why would a company pressure others to go?
Senior staff members and sales and marketing teams will know that they are expected to socialise and attend industry events. Some will be better at it, and enjoy it, more than others. But if people are forced to go it will build resentment and be counter productive.
The benefits to the individual in attending industry events are clear. They will meet their peers, find out what’s happening, who’s doing what and maybe even find their next career move. It helps to boost their personal brand.
The benefits to the company are also obvious. Their products and services get talked about, business relationships are made, opportunities to win new business are increased and the company profile is raised. But do be cautious. The people representing your brand will be seen by others as your ambassadors. They have to be enthusiastic and positive about your company, otherwise they could make a negative impact on people’s perceptions of your organisation.
Who do you think would do a better job for your company at industry social events? Someone who genuinely wants to attend, is good with people and networking and importantly knows why they are there? Or someone who has been forced to go and would much rather be somewhere else?
There is nothing wrong in encouraging your people to get out to socialise and network. But if you want them to make the most of the opportunity, and feel comfortable doing so, it could be worth providing support and training in networking skills. Not everyone is a natural extrovert who relishes the prospect of a room full of people they don’t know.
This is where the work life balance comes in. At the end of a busy day, the thought of going to an event and not getting home till late can be unappealing. Even if it is a requisite part of the role, the organisation should not take it for granted that people will regularly miss out on family time.
I attended a business event in Birmingham one evening last week and it was a long drive and a long evening. But it was really worth attending. But to balance that up I spent the following afternoon with my granddaughter.
Or read the full series of FM Clinic interviews in the print edition of FMJ September 2016 here.