How often have you gone to a networking event and come away feeling like you wasted a perfectly good evening? You went in with high hopes of making some quality connections and left with a handful of business cards for people you’re likely never to talk to again. You meet people who have five or six networking guides on their bookshelf and they approached you and immediately started executing “strategies” that they learned.
There are two ways to approach any networking event. The first, is to go in looking for more business cards to expand your Rolodex. You size people up and determine what benefit that person is to you and your network. The alternative is to go in with the intention of building relationships. You are there because you have a mutual interest in meeting new people and working together for the common good of helping each other out. If that includes building your own business then so much the better, right?
Everyone has heard the saying that you need an “elevator” pitch. You know, a brief synopsis of what you do that you can deliver in the time it takes to get a ride in an elevator. Usually, it’s no more then a minute in length. If your at a networking even and all your doing is repeating your elevator pitch over and over then your doing it wrong. Your in a social setting, so be social! Your not pitching a investment banker or angel fund manager. Your trying to build a relationship with someone.
Then there’s the speed dating style of networking. Initially, I was a big fan of these. It’s a great way to meet lots and lots of people. But, after a while, I’ve become a little jaded towards them. There isn’t really any time for a relationship to form. Plus, not everyone understands the concept no matter how much or how many ways it’s explained to them. Inevitably, someone is going to get the lions share of the three minutes you have and it’s either the person who doesn’t know how it works or doesn’t care how it’s supposed to work. I want to get to know you better, I want to form a relationship with you and it seems that in 3 minutes or less I really don’t have that kind of time.
I believe there is a better way to do this. There is a better way to network with people in your area and form real relationships where everybody wins. It takes time and effort to build relationships. Growing your network is like tending a garden. You have to water it, and fertilize it, and nurture it. You can’t just quickly run by and give it a cursory glance before moving on. Do you want hundreds of contacts in your contact manager who are of little quality or do you want a strong core group of people who you really connect with?
I say the latter is better. Get out there and really connect with people. More is not always better. Find out who this person is not just as a professional, but as a person. Seek out events where you get beyond the 60 second (or 30 second as some people are now promoting) elevator pitch! In an age where most of our communication is done via email or instant messenger real hands on communication in a face to face situation is rare but powerful. Get to know the person you are talking to a build a real honest relationship with them. You will find this so much more beneficial in the quality of network that you build.
What do you think about this? What works better for you? What doesn’t? What would make this whole process better?