Networking – how is it done

We all go to networking events at times, but how effective is it? And can you only network in networking events, or does it happen elsewhere as well?

Here are my thoughts about it.

  1. Every encounter is a chance to network, whether it is with new people you just met, or old acquaintances. Any chance encounter can lead to a lasting discussion and professional relationship. The other day I heard a guy on the next table in a relaxed restaurant talk about project management. That peaked my curiosity. I talked to him after he finished his phone call, apologized for intruding and told him that him talking about project management intrigued me and I would like to know more about his way of doing project management. Even though I actually ambushed him, I did manage to do it in a gentle enough way and we did have a 1 hr discussion about project management and what we are doing in consulting. We are continuing our discussion and are now looking at where we can collaborate in future.
  2. You need to be smart about it and patient. Avoid annoying people at any cost. Build a relationship first, before you ask for business or a job…… This takes time and requires you to put yourself into it. Here are 2 examples of how not to do it:
    1. We have all met this person who during a networking event will force a business card on everyone, even interrupting conversations. Not a good idea, these cards will most likely end in a dust bin
    1. We have all met the young (in experience) overeager Networker, who introduces him / herself and in the second sentence says that s/he wants a job or business from you. How do you feel when ambushed like that? Not good isn’t it? Well others feel the same.

What can you do instead?

  1. Have business cards with you. Also ask people you meet for business cards. Then follow up the next day and write to those, whose business cards you received. Tell them where you met and thank them for connecting with you. Then talk about, what you would like to discuss with them further. Again, this is too early to ask for business or a job. But you can introduce a topic and suggest that you meet to discuss it further.
  2. Connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn
  3. During Networking events or Conferences I often sit at an empty table and just simply chance who comes to sit with me. That way you get to know new people and since you are in the same event or conference, you already have a topic to talk about.
  4. If you are in a Networking event, discuss with new people about the event topic. Discuss the presentation and add your own experience and points of view. However you need to avoid being negative or rubbishing what was said.
  5. Show yourself as knowledgeable and caring about the topic
  6. On a second meeting you can talk about your interests and usually you will find common interests or points of interaction. If your new contact is a golf player and you are too, agree for a round of golf. Then you’ll have them for up to 4 hours for more discussions.

If they share the same interest in wildlife you have, then see if you have some common contacts, or are in the same group.

  • Most importantly be yourself, do not pretend! So that you do not come across as fake.
  • If someone is not interested in talking to you, let them be. You have introduced yourself, that’s enough for now.

Building relationships is work, but in the end it is rewarding work. You will make new friends and often connect deeply with them. Things like jobs or business opportunities will come automatically later. I got invited to co-author a book with someone who coached me during the Leadership Institute Master Class. We did talk deeply during the coaching sessions and we connected on LinkedIn. I wrote her a recommendation, she did the same for me. Then we started following each other. She liked the articles I am writing and thought they touched the topic of the book she is writing. She needed help, so she contacted me.

You see the thread here: I did not ask her for business or for co-authoring with her. We did connect professionally, learned to respect each other. She had a need and she approached me.

Networking is an art, that we all need to learn.

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