There is strength in numbers, and also solidarity and community. A reflection on the value of event-based networking.
As an introvert who feels more at home behind a keyboard than shaking hands and rubbing shoulders with colleagues in any given industry, I don’t often get to reflect on the true value of these interactions. Most of the time I return from such encounters emotionally exhausted and end up spending several hours holed up with a cup of tea and a book to recover. (Actually, that sounds like any regular Saturday night.)
Last week I spent a heady four days in Newcastle (Australia) with my writer peers at the National Young Writers’ Festival, an event I’ve been attending since 2001, back when I was actually young. As I am now on the cusp of being not-young (the cutoff is 35) and my writing career is well-established, I knew this was one of the last times I’d feel the festival was for me. This element of nostalgia prompted me to consider why it’s important to gather.
One of the very last events of the festival was a reflection on the value of writers’ festivals. The panel host asked me why I go. “It gives writers a reason to come together,” I said. “It’s collegiate, it’s a way to check in with other writers and the industry.”
This is true of all such industry events, I realised as I landed in Hobart, where the Australian Institute of Project Management will hold its annual National Conference. It isn’t just about the content of the sessions, it’s a meeting point for peers to share their practice, their stories and, dare I say, their scars.
I first visited Hobart in 2007 for the same conference. At the time I was the newly appointed editor of the AIPM’s Project Manager magazine and the experience taught me so much, not just about project management and its issues, but project managers, how they think, how to talk to them, what they wanted to learn.
If you don’t get to talk to anyone with your level of expertise—or even if you do—I highly recommend taking as many opportunities as you can get to meet and greet. Not only is networking a good way to benchmark and improve your project management practice, it’s also fun—and this is from an introvert who prefers to read a book than talk to people!