Kristy Swanson, MA, ACC, CPCC, Guest Author –
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m feeling a bit snarky today, so I’m going to get on my soapbox just for a moment. Here’s the subject of my ire: “networking events.” Actually, it’s not the events themselves that are the problem.
The problem is that there are things some people do at these events that are just so, well, annoying! It’s like they all read some rule book about “how to network” and then go to events and execute the strategies without actually considering what the purpose is, or who they are speaking with. And frankly, some of those strategies are off-putting!
Here’s the thing: in my opinion the whole purpose of networking, in any format, is about building relationship. It’s about meeting others, spending time getting to know them, and creating a genuine connection based on mutual interest, admiration, and support. Yes, the hope is that eventually, your network can help you build your business.
But when your primary focus when attending an event is “what can you do for me, right now?” the impact can be the opposite of what you’re hoping for. I often go to events and get the vibe from some people that they’re just there trolling for more business cards, expanding their Rolodex, and sizing up others with a quick eye on whether or not that person might be of use to them. Blech. Just feels yucky to me.
So here are three common networking “situations” that, well, suck:
1. Being on the receiving end of a “canned” speech or conversation. I know, I know…we’re all taught that we need an elevator speech, that we have thirty seconds to sell ourselves before our target person escapes. And I suppose I get it – to a point.
But when it comes across as rehearsed, fake, or contrived – well, it goes against my desire for genuine connection, for authenticity, for real human interaction. When I hear it, I have the experience of being on the receiving end of an infomercial. Sure, tell me about what you do – but have a conversation with me, don’t “sell” me on yourself.
2. Feeling like you’re on a speed date. You know those events where you get three minutes with someone to interview him, ask your list of pointed questions, and then move on to the next guy, scoring each person as you go along? Well, some people do networking this way. They meet you, give you the speech, do the card exchange, and move on to the next person with such velocity, you’d think there was a time limited contest going on about who can collect the most cards.
As someone who has been on the receiving end of that experience, I can tell you that it leaves me flat, disinterested, and not wanting to do business with you. Again – it’s the relationship, stupid!
3. Being added to the mailing list of someone you’ve barely met, just because you handed them your card. Giving you my card is not the same thing as giving you permission to start bombarding me with marketing messages.
Now, I actually like when someone sends me an email after an event, saying nice to meet you and so forth. Especially when it’s a personalized note. But I really dislike getting bombarded with marketing messages in general, especially when I didn’t specifically request to be added to your list. So please, be respectful – ask permission before you start spamming!
And all of this makes me think, there has got to be a better way than the hard-core networking rules. It takes time to build relationships. Nurturing your network of business and personal contacts takes care and energy, as well as intention: do you just want as many contacts as possible on your list? Or do you want to have fewer, more relevant people you connect with?
I vote for the latter. I say, be intentional. Connect with someone, and really spend time getting curious about them – not just their business, but who they are as person. Seek events where you get to know someone beyond their thirty-second elevator speech. Be personal!
In a world where there is so much digital, electronic, virtual information exchange going on, being personal is powerful, and is becoming rare. Take the time to get to know someone and build an authentic relationship with them, and I guarantee you will reap the rewards by the quality of the network that you build.
What about you? What works for you when you’re networking? What doesn’t? What would make the process better?
Copyright © 2010 – Kristy Swanson. Kristy Swanson is the Chief Catalyst and Velvet Hammer at BrightWorks Coaching. In Kristy’s own words: “I’m a keeper of dreams. A truth-as-I-see-it teller. A perspective detective. A mirror. Mostly, I’m an eternal optimist who gets a charge out of helping people on their unique quest for growth.” Call: 425-280-5894. Visit Kristy’s Website at: http://KristySwan.com/
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! Visit ” Networking HQ!”
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