How Not to Network at Networking (and Why You Shouldn’t)
I know the title is there for wordplay, but I mean it. I believe networking is a byproduct of meaningful human interaction, which usually means doing a goal-oriented activity. My overall thesis is that you should show up to a networking event looking to make a friend in a certain business or industry. What happens in that friendship — that’s up to you too! But here are three tips I’ve picked up over the years of networking:
Don’t Count Cards
Have you been at an event, started talking to someone, and 30 seconds into the conversation, they are doing nothing but looking over your shoulder at who else (i.e., more important than you) is at the function? Yeah. Don’t be that guy. That guy (or girl) is there because they think meeting the right person, or the right amount of people, is going to further their goals. And you know what… it might pay off. In the short term. But I don’t believe that’s a good way to go.
In any industry, it’s important to treat your well with respect and care. You will be coming back to that well. So even if the person who is bearing their soul to you, telling you about their kids or business, can do nothing for you… give them your attention until the conversation comes to a proper close.
It doesn’t matter if you only meet one person that night. There will be other nights.
Meet Two People
My goal at any function is to meet two people. That’s usually served me just fine. This goes into a bigger philosophy of mine of networking events, among other things, being a ‘marathon and not a sprint.’
If you meet two people, and have a truly invested conversation with them, something interesting happens. You make friends. The thing about friends: they have friends.
And let’s be real, people want friends, not business associates, customers or vendors. Those things are all good and well… but at the end of the day, we’re all looking for love, to love and to be loved.
Follow Up with Everyone
If someone gives you their business card, do yourself a favor and e-mail them the next day (or the next day you’re in the office). Doesn’t have to be a huge deal — just send them a note. Something like “nice meeting you, let me know if you ever need blank” or “great meeting you, hope your upcoming vacation is awesome!”
If you write something in that e-mail that identifies something memorable about them or what they do, not only do they feel like you listened to them, but your e-mail can act as your own search-engine rolodex. Wonder who the photobooth person was that you ran into eight weeks ago? Search your e-mail for photobooth, and if you did yourself right, you’ll have a sent note. Also — people typically respond back to you with a short nice reply to your initial reaching out.
Do these things, and the intimidating magic trick of successful networking should appear a little more like fun, or like a job… whichever makes you feel more comfortable.