Salt & Pepper November 2017: Are Networking Only Events Still Relevant?


NOTE: Salt & Pepper is intended to foster intelligent dialogue between professionals. This is not a dagger throwing contest. Be honest and authentic, but please also be kind and keep it classy.


At all levels of the industry, many events are sold with the promise of “networking opportunities.” This has become a bit of a nebulous term in the age of social media. In this month’s Salt & Pepper, Kirby Hasseman and Bill Petrie share their thoughts on whether industry specific networking is relevant. One additional note: Bill and Kirby wrote their takes completely independently so as not to color each other’s response – we think the result is most interesting. Tell us what you think!

Salt – Kirby Hasseman

Are industry networking events relevant today?  The answer is not yes…it’s “Hell Yes!”  

Even though social media has changed the way we have gotten to know each (for the better, I think), there is still power in getting in the same room.  It happens again and again if you allow it.  I once heard that “Social media will never replace the handshake.  But it will turn the handshake into a hug.”  I love that…and I have lived it.  

A few years ago, I started attending the PPAI Expo again (after a several year hiatus).  It was like an annual class reunion.  I got to reconnect with people in the industry I already knew.  But more importantly, I got to solidify the relationships I had made online.  The industry events allowed me to create deeper and more meaningful connections.  

Yes…social media is amazing.  Yes…you can learn so much more about your peers.  But I love the opportunity to grab a beer and really connect with pros in our industry. It reminds me why I love this industry so much!

Pepper – Bill Petrie

Even though I’m outgoing and I love people (despite all the pumpkin spice stuff, I really do like people), I’ve always loathed networking events: the nametags, the “icebreakers,” the forced conversations, and the overall clumsy vibe of those events. Because of those experiences – and we’ve all had them – I’ve gone out of my way to avoid the destination networking event as often as possible.

For quite some time, I’ve felt that the whole idea of networking in the traditional sense – whether industry specific or not – is simply an anachronism to a time before technology was such a daily part of life.

The invasion of social media in all aspects of life have rendered traditional networking events irrelevant. Think about it for a moment: despite its flaws, the Promotional Products Professionals page on Facebook is a daily virtual networking event. At any given time, someone is looking for a specific product, complaining about millennials/x’ers/boomers, trying to understand industry trends, expressing a fear of amazon (or another behemoth) entering the promo space, asking about prospecting techniques, or venting about how supplier x might have dropped the ball. At every traditional industry networking event, those are the same exact conversations but, thanks to social media, they happen in a fraction of the time and without the awkwardness.

In today’s world, networking happens on a daily – even hourly – basis. Because of this, the new role of the traditional networking event is where, as my friend and fellow PromoKitchen chef Danny Rosin would say, a handshake turns into a hug. Without the continual networking that happens in virtual forms across the internet, that same traditional networking would still be as painful as a 7th grade dance.

So, yes, there is still a place for networking at industry events, but it’s part of the event journey and not the destination.