|Photo by Jesse Marlow, source: http://www.theage.com: http://bit.ly/dzrB6y|
|Networking at TechColumbus' Incubator|
I believe Naturals and Reluctants make up at least 98% of people at networking events, and together they make the networking world go 'round. The third group is a bit different...
What's missing from the NetStalkers efforts? Simple - a real relationship. That’s why I “back pocket” their cards. Frankly, who wants to put effort into a one sided relationship? When I'm networking, my goal is to first identify connection points and then build a real relationship. It takes time and effort to do this, on both parties' parts. There are hundreds of connection points - kids, careers, sports, hobbies, food, current events etc. and all play a role in building and maintaining relationships. I've had the great pleasure of meeting about 1,000 people in the past couple of years and have established some solid relationships, renewed old ones and gained quite a few friends. I have yet to establish a real relationship with a NetStalker beyond the status of acquaintance. This is a shame, because the NetStalkers have just as much to offer from a relationship
So, which are you? Odds are, you either a Natural or a Reluctant and you’re in great shape. If you’re a NetStalker, you can improve your networking skills and reap great benefits personally and professionally. No matter which category you are in, basic networking principles apply and establishing real relationships is key to success.
Here's my 5 simple recommendations for being an effective networker:
- Study the good networkers, whether a Natural or Reluctant - hang with them for multiple conversations. Watch how they engage others. Observe their body language and facial expressions. Watch how they start conversations, how they welcome additional people into a conversation circle, and how they move from person to person or from group to group without seeming disinterested or disingenuous. Learn how they handle NetStalkers as well – gracefully and with respect is the rule.
- Engage in conversations to learn and to build relationships. Assume you are the novice in the room. Invest your time listening, asking questions and committing details of your conversation to memory.
- Listen more than you speak. Far more.
- Think proactively. Who do you know that would be a great introduction to your new connection? Make an introduction at the event or as a follow-up. Expect nothing in return; you’re simply practicing good networking.
- Buy lunch. Invite a new connection to join you and continue the conversation when you follow up after the event. Use this time to make personal connections, strengthening your relationship through personal as well as professional connection points.
Incept, based in Canton, Ohio has some great pointers in "Top 10 Ways to be Conversational" that addresses telemarketers and how to have a conversation rather than coming across as a robot. Most of the principles Stephanie lists are applicable to in-person conversations as well.
A great site for networking insight is Smart Networking by Liz Lynch. Liz has written Smart Networking: Attract a Following in Person and Online (I haven't yet read it) and is the founder of The Center for Networking Excellence. Be sure to check out Liz's Smart Networking Resources page and take the quiz, then read The Smart Networking Blog. I first became aware of Liz Lynch via friend Lewis Howes, who has co-written the excellent Linked Working: Generating Success on LinkedIn the World's Largest Professional Networking Site. I've read my autographed copy a couple of times, use it as a reference and highly recommend Linked Working. I have great respect for Lewis as a person and an entrepreneur who has overcome adversity and created his own career path centered on networking. Lewis also is partners with ProBlogger author Chris Garrett on Shy Networking - Connect with Confidence. You can draw on Liz and Lewis' networking expertise to hone you own.
Chime in! What networking recommendations do you have? How do you handle NetStalkers without offending? What good ideas on networking do you have?