Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James

Monday, December 7, 2009

Networking Events are a Waste of Time. . .

. . . UNLESS you have learned the collaborative etiquette of networking!

Hmmm. Got your attention didn’t I? I suppose all networking is good, however, what brings the most productive long-term benefit to both parties is the manner in which the relationship is built.

networkingEventWhat is the collaborative etiquette of networking?

Collaborative, n.
1. The act of working together; united labor.
2. To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.

Etiquette, n.
1. The practices and forms prescribed by social convention or by authority.
2. The customs or rules governing behavior regarded as correct or acceptable in social or official life

So, collaborative etiquette is: The act of working together within the practice of mutually beneficial social convention. Put another way, it is networking in a way that subscribes to the idea that networking is about using your creative talents to help others achieve their goals as you cultivate a network of people strategically positioned to support you in your goals. . . expecting nothing in return. Collaborative etiquette is the lubrication that makes things run smoothly. Without it, you may permanently alienate others.

And yet another way. . . it’s practicing the “Go Giver” mentality not the “give to get” mentality. In other words, the “give to get” mentality is giving with an expectation of receiving something from the person you gave to. Not good. This is a set-up for disappointment because that is not the way it usually works. When you give it “always” comes back to you but not always from the person you contributed to.

Keep your expectations in check. Remember, unfulfilled expectations always cause problems. If you don’t get what you expect, you get disappointed. Disappointment leads to resentment, frustration and upsets. Having expectations is a luxury you cannot afford in networking.

I am disgusted with the “meet” market mass hysteria that seems to follow very large networking events. Avoid this schmoozefest. And. . . nothing irritates me more than having a “Networking Nancy” or a “Networking Ned” shove a business card in hand and say, “What do you do?” and before I can answer, they interrupt with their unsolicited pitch without waiting to see if I care. Like they care? It doesn’t feel like it. Like I care? Hardly. No one cares about your opportunity until they know how much you care.

Hysteria, n.
1. Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic.

Fear or panic, eh? Seems to me to fit the profile of a networking newbie or someone who flat doesn’t understand the collaborative etiquette of networking. The fear may come from their concern about business not being so good or that they feel they must work really hard to meet as many people as they can to help them or they will fail. They don’t know that in networking we are there to stir up a collaborative relationship where we truly help each other.

Building trust comes way before giving a sales spiel.

Collaboration is the key to increased networking efficiency. Did you get that? Collaboration! That means to work together! Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together toward common goals. There’s another key. . . working together!

IMPORTANT: Networking is about helping each other. It’s a two-way street!

Before me stands someone who is desperate to get business – coming from fear – rather than take the time it takes to develop a long-lasting relationship.

Desperate, n.
1. One desperate or hopeless.

Another irritant is having an MLMer (multi-level or network marketer) try to recruit me into their fold without telling me hardly anything about their scheme where I can make $20,000 a month. It seems to me that it should be this way: help someone understand and like the product by being a user of the product and much later. . . introduce them to a way that they might make a few extra dollars in their spare time. I know how it works because at one point in my life I was a very successful MLMer. Networking events are not about recruiting. If you are someone who does this, you will soon get a reputation as a networking pest and your networking opportunities will soon evaporate.

Sometimes I want to scream, “Stop trying to sell me. I don’t even know you and you certainly have no clue about what my motivation is for being here!” Michelle Villalobos (BNI Member, Miami) calls this, “premature solicitation.”

“Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t.” ~ Seth Godin

My friend, Jim Rohn once said, “The more you know, the less you need to say.” Sometimes is is wise to just keep your mouth shut and let the other person blab on about whatever it is they do. Then excuse yourself politely and move on to meet someone else.

Be clear. Networking is using your creative talents to help others achieve their goals as you cultivate a network of people strategically positioned to support you in your goals. . . expecting nothing in return! And if a business lead grows from conversation with another networker that’s the bonus! Not the intent.

At a networking event what comes first?

1. Small Talk

No serious banter about “your” business. It’s get acquainted time. Introduce yourself then ask, “What do you do?” Show an interest in others. Establish eye contact, then raise a non-threatening small-talk topic. The purpose of small talk is to break the ice, build rapport and gain trust. Do you both “click?” Without rapport, there is no foundation to develop a long-term relationship. Offer a firm handshake. Wear a name tag on the right side of your jacket or dress.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Observe and listen. Listening is the heart of communication. Target the person’s interests. Be mentally engaged in what the other person is saying. Interact with positive observations and questions about how you might help them. Look for a keyword or phrase that is in some way related to the topic that you would like to discuss with this person. Ask relevant questions and avoid wasting his or her time. Determine what the person believes he or she needs related to you, then link yourself to their needs. Offer to help if you think you can contribute. Never be afraid to take initiative. Be pleasant, respectful and polite.

Avoid any type of sarcasm or negativity. Offer no, “Business is bad” talk. Keep the conversation positive. Insert positive reinforcement into the conversation. Make good eye contact. Be relaxed and confident. Respect their personal space. Easy on the business cards (see #2). Never be afraid to ask for help. Most people are flattered to be asked for assistance, tips and advice.

“Be careful of receiving counsel from unproductive or toxic people—they don’t follow their own advice. Healthy people will not join in your sorrow—they will show you a brighter vision!” – Steven Connor

Maintain focus on the one you are talking with. It’s rude to be looking over their shoulder to see who else would be your next likely victim. It should only take a few minutes of small talk to help you make the right choice about whether this is someone you want to follow-up with.

“People who listen well are so memorable because they make us feel special when we are face-to-face. These smart and savvy communicators do not allow themselves to be distracted by phones, buzzing text messages or Blackberrys. They don’t walk into a party, a meeting or a memorial wearing a Bluetooth. They are “in the moment” not waiting for someone, anyone – to call, text, IM or twitter in the next moment. And we love them for that.” – Susan RoAne

Postpone further discussions if the person wants to get down to business right away and there are others present. Exchanges business cards and set an appointment to consider the matter in greater depth. You must carefully consider who you choose to connect with. For the people you do reject, show respect by offering alternatives. Perhaps someone else in your network could help them.

2. Exchange Business Cards. . . MAYBE!

I seldom offer my business card to someone I would rather not do business with. If they ask, I will oblige. Make business card exchanges meaningful. Only exchange cards with someone when it will be of benefit to both of you. “Hello, my name is Boring Bobby, have a card” doesn’t work.

Demonstrate that you have common sense. Send the appropriate message to others in order to avoid misunderstandings and foster trust. If you want to pursue the relationship say so and follow up. If not say, “Please excuse me, I’ve enjoyed speaking with you.” Smile and move on.

3. Don’t butt in!

If you see several people talking and you would like to join them, approach with sensitivity. Stand quietly several feet away for a second or two. If there is a break in the conversation or if someone in the group happens to look your way – use your good judgment – and take a step forward and introduce yourself. If that doesn’t happen, exit immediately with “excuse me.” It should be clear that they choose not to invite anyone else into the conversation.

4. Butt Out!

There is always one Boring Bobby or Boring Betty at every large networking event. These are the people you want to get away from as soon as possible. Say, “I’d like to grab a Pepsi. Feel free to mingle with others.” Or. . . offer to introduce them to someone else, then make the introductions and as they begin to chat with each other, politely excuse yourself. People like this are a challenge. Never feel obliged to suffer through their monotony at a networking event.

5. Keep your word!

Follow through on your promises. Never, I repeat, never offer anything unless you plan to follow through.

6. Follow up! – Promptly

Think of creative ways to keep in touch. Thank people for leads, tips and ideas even if their suggestions don’t work out; your contacts will appreciate the follow-up. E-mail and a phone call are okay but a face-to-face connection with someone you want to know better is best. Practice appropriate persistence and be sensitive to time constraints.

My guess would be that the biggest percentage of people who attend large networking events have had little, if any, training on how to network correctly. They are not even aware of the simple slip-ups that can cascade into full-blown avoidance by others in the network. They are thinking: “Sell, sell, sell.” Wrong!

They mostly see it as an opportunity to collect business leads. By the way, working the room does not mean meeting as many people as you can and collecting the most business cards. A poor approach to networking can have a devastating effect however an effective approach using collaborative etiquette can open countless doors and opportunities.

At a recent networking event I stopped at the name tag table and asked to speak with the person who was hosting the event. The young women behind the table immediately looked around the room, spotted the host and said, “Come with me. I’ll introduce you to her.” That’s class.

Why is effective networking so important? Because networking isn’t just a great idea anymore; networking is an essential and long-term component of developing and maintaining long-term business relationships. The basics of effective networking are easy to learn, but as with most professional skills, they must be practiced and perfected in order to be effective.

So. . . are we clear? Networking is NOT about selling or collecting business cards. It’s about building relationships. Always remember, successful networking is based on giving more than you take.

The stability, power and longevity of a tribe is directly related to the way it is treated by its members. When many of them seek to take, to enrich themselves and to find a loophole or advantage, the group is weakened. ~ Seth Godin

Never assume that those within your network share your religious, political, or social beliefs. It’s best to stay away from these topics.

You would be wise to create a 5 to 10 second “elevator speech” for a large event. One that briefly describes what you do. At smaller events you will often be asked to introduce yourself and a 30-second connection would be more appropriate.

If you are unclear about what networking is about. . . get help before you damage your reputation and become someone others avoid when they see you coming. (You know people like that, don’t you?) Don’t become one of them. Hire a coach. It is important to learn the ropes from someone who knows the ropes.

The proper application of collaborative etiquette in networking will empower you to build and nurture your own network. Make a commitment to put these powerful guidelines into action and you’ll be attracting a vast number of new team members and business partners into your network. Put to use the guidelines of collaborative etiquette to your networking opportunities and before long the contacts will be coming to you, instead of the other way around.

Commitment, n.
1 an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled

The quality of relationships you build in networking are far superior to the quantity of friends you make.

“These lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships begin with projecting an outstanding impression, but are sustained through trust and the investment of time and effort to help others.” – Aviva Shiff, co-founder of Spark Training & Coaching Associates

Bonus Link: Watch a brief video featuring Phyllis Davis on Networking Etiquette. Click here. (Highly Recommended).

Read, “Networking, And Why It Sucks” by Kristy Swanson, Personal and Professional Coach, Kirkland, Washington
netHQ

Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact: Larry James, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – CelebrateLove.com

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26 Comments »

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  26. The following comments were posted on my http://biznik.com/members/larry-james account for the article, “Networking Events Are a Waste of Time…”

    Posted by Victoria Leo, Federal Way, Washington | 1 day ago
    Amen, brother, amen! I stopped going to networking events for a while, now I go but disengage from the folks you describe ASAP.

    Posted by Wayne Jordan, Roanoke, Virginia | 9 hours ago
    Larry, too often at networking events the participants either don’t know or don’t apply the know/like/trust sequence. What I want from networking is referrals, and in order to get them folks must know me, like me, and trust me. How could that happen if the first thing out of my mouth is a sales pitch? Productive relationships take time to build.

    Posted by Ray Coggin, Liberty, North Carolina | 9 hours ago
    Excellent article,, thank you for your valuable insight! I agree with everything you said!

    Posted by Sara Lancaster, Denver, Colorado | 9 hours ago
    I’ve been experimenting with networking lately myself — trying different groups/styles to see what fits best. I can’t say anything extraordinary has come from it, but I’m hopeful. Articles like these are a nice reminder of what could come.

    Posted by Brian Kaplan, Puyallup, Washington | 9 hours ago
    Dear Larry; Thanks for this article, it hits the nail on the head, shared with others will keep our networking efforts on track…we have been mostly successful in following your plan. Sincerely Brian Kaplan / Wisdom Bridge Productions.

    Posted by Dawn Thomas, Los Altos, California | 7 hours ago
    Okay, I LOVE this article as it is so on target. As Victoria said, I have limited my time at networking events for the last few months. I did so because of the types of people you have described. There is no reason; however, that networking cannot be extremely beneficial to all of us in our businesses when it’s done right. I find, though, that I am the one who is always re-focusing the conversation where it should be–on getting to know one another and seeing how I can help them. Too often, people want to be the “card commando” as you stated with your “Networking Nancy” or a “Networking Ned” scenario. This behavior is horribly rude and it makes me want to set their business card on fire right in front of them. Okay, this may be extreme, but the lack of professionalism and care is infuriating at networking events! I appreciate your article!

    Posted by Laura Foley, Hubbardston, Massachusetts | 4 hours ago
    Larry, thank you so much for articulating what I was beginning to figure out for myself.
    Lately, I’ve been finding myself spewing data about my business like a robot to people I’d meet at networking events, trying to mimic what they were doing in an effort to fit in professionally. Well, that’s definitely not my style; I’d much rather talk about my son’s pet crayfish or how much fun it is to go on hikes than discuss the ROI my clients and stakeholders receive in exchange for mutually beneficial partner relationships. After an evening of trying to speak like a corporate drone I’d return home feeling like a failure for not being able to instantly capture people’s attention with the latest buzzwords.
    Well, this week I decided to try a different tack. I had pleasant conversations with several attendees at a recent networking event about topics unrelated to business. The conversation flowed more easily and I hope were more memorable than the “elevator pitch” I had been trying to deliver.
    You’re right on target when you say that networking is about building relationships, not nabbing customers. Thanks for a well-written article.

    Posted by Steve Smith, Lake Forest, California | 3 hours ago
    Larry, Great article! Thanks for taking the time to so thoroughly disect the world of networking. For far too long, many good networking organizations and events have been plagued by the practices you mention. Hopefully, people will read your insights and put your suggestions to practice. I’ve covered the subject of networking on several occasions in order to help my clients overcome their fears and develop productive approaches to building quality relationship-drive referrals.

    You might find my article about the planning and etiquette side of networking interesting: http://network.ocmetrobusiness.com/profiles/blogs/face-to-face-marketing

    Steve Smith- Business Advisor, OneCoach http://www.BusinessCoachingThatWorks.com

    Posted by Heather Carder, Seattle, Washington | 2 hours ago
    Great article, Larry – it is refreshing to see in word what many of us have felt at Networking events. Sometimes just the thought of “Networking hour” seems like a cocktail party that you don’t really want to be at. However, it is truly a very important aspect of any successful business owner, and I admit I am getting better at it – I even practice at the grocery store, post office, etc! Thanks for such a great article!

    Posted by Arden Clise, Seattle, Washington | 2 hours ago
    Great article Larry. I love the term collaborative etiquette, because really, that’s what it’s all about. Etiquette is about treating people with kindness and respect and making others comfortable. Employing good networking etiquette will always benefit you over steam rolling people with your sales pitch and “what-can-you-do-for-me” approach. I love that quote by Dale Carnegie. Very smart man! I used it in my “How Not To Do Sales” Biznik article I posted a few weeks ago, that essentially talks about the same things you did. We Biznikers can change networking for the better by being great role models and helping people to see there is a better way.

    Posted by Betty Burleigh, Bear, Delaware | 2 hours ago
    Your comments are right on target, because being a Personal Chef I have to explain what I do first. Unless they know me and trust me. They are not going to hire me to cook for them.

    Posted by Sandy Jones-Kaminski, Seattle, Washington | Dec 11, 2009
    GREAT article! And, since this ‘Tis the season for lots of holiday party related networking activity, I’ll add that there are a lot of folks out there that actually bristle at the “What do you do?” question for many reasons and I recommend people instead ask others, “So, Larry, what are you working on these days?”

    This question allows the person to start a conversation w/you about whatever it is that THEY might like to chat about. And, if they are like so many folks looking for a new job or new clients these days, they can express that immediately and comfortably w/o patiently waiting for you to find out why they even bothered to attend a networking event in the first place.

    Plus, even folks looking for a job are usually working very hard at it and they’re able to answer that question with a little more ease instead of having to respond with the dreaded, “I’m in transition” or “I’m looking at my options.” I offer a lot more networking advice and insights in my new book currently on Amazon titled, “I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???” and I support and elaborate on a lot of what you offered us all in this excellent article!

    Here’s the link to my book, in case anyone is curious: http://amzn.com/1600051669

    Thanks for sharing your insights Larry!

    Posted by Larry Sykes, Jefferson, Oregon | Dec 12, 2009
    Funny you should mention the MLMer. I was hit by a neighbor this week, video phones! First thing out of his mouth “$25,000 a month.” Instant turn off. Great article and useful tips.

    By the way Larry I know how you can make an extra $50,000 a month, part time and never have to do anything! Interested? LOL

    Posted by meira shupack MSW, Seattle, Washington | Dec 14, 2009
    Bravo , pure simple, do unto others…or it so it seems, is a good rule of thumb …though I myself get a little shy at these things… I am blooming 🙂 Real people sell themselves just by their lack of craftiness ( at least to me ), I hate being handled more than anything…and feel so very excited by real connection…it’s like night and day…how differently I respond inside…thanks again,very helpful tips,I look forward to your next post.

    Posted by Susan Lannis, Clackamas, Oregon | Dec 14, 2009
    Thank you for some actions to make sure the time I spend networking is well spent!

    Posted by J G Fernandez, Bangalore, Karnataka India | 4 weeks ago
    I had attended one business network meeting recently. The speaker talks about his own stories from childhood to now it self most of the time of presentation. It seems he is most happy to advertise that things to that gathered people. As an audience I need help or support from there but it was more hurt me. Simply it makes me boring and I walked out from there. But some people are Okay. They have talked as short, frame work slide shows and meaningful advice. That is enough! So we could not blame to all.

    Larry Peters
    Posted by Larry Peters, Bellingham, Washington | 4 weeks ago

    Then there’s the exclusive networking groups that charge you as much as $600/year to be the exclusive representative for your profession in the group and you must use and promote all others in the group. As a photographer, for instance, I’ll never be able to get business from anyone who’s in a different networking group if they have a photographer in their group. Suddenly it’s not about who can do the best job, it’s about using someone in your networking group!

    Lisa Mullis
    Posted by Lisa Mullis, Portland, Oregon | Jan 17, 2010
    Thank you, Larry, for your candid insights. I appreciate the concrete tips you provide about how to get into (and out of) some commonly challenging situations when at networking events. I would like to add one very simple tip: Remember to smile.

    Comment by Larry James — Thursday, December 10, 2009 @ 3:28 pm | Reply


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