How many times have you attended a networking event and ‘gotten nothing out of it’?
If you feel like you’ve wasted your time more than a handful of times in recent history, you’re doing it wrong. Most business owners I know don’t have copious amounts of discretionary time. Time is both all we have and all we don’t have. So, use that time wisely.
Networking works. A healthy chunk of our business growth year over year is a result of relationship building and reputation. Business owners, leaders and those interested in swift professional growth should understand its worth and the role it plays in your business and professional opportunities.
Networking events are a dime a dozen. If you wanted to busy yourself event-hopping the whole week, you could certainly do that. And if you choose to spend your time that way, I’d call that amateur hour. Busyness has never appealed to me. Efficiency and results are my drivers. With that in mind, each year I become more and more selective of how my time is spent.
Networking can be broken down into 3 buckets:
1:1 networking is networking in the most traditional and authentic sense. Person A gets to know Person B. Each person is invested emotionally and in some cases financially in the success of the other. When either person comes across a situation where it makes sense to get the other involved, they do so. Very quickly the connection between Person A and B expands to persons C, D, E, F and so on.
This type of networking is most impactful. As a consumer, who might value the recommendation of a trusted advisor or influencer, nothing means more than when one of those people put their stamp of approval on a product or person that you’re considering. As a salesperson, you’re also more likely to close when you’re hand-selected and introduced into a situation. Credibility soars. So, if it’s so fruitful, why are people investing less and less time networking 1:1? Two reasons: people are BUSY and SELF SERVING.
You see, to be a strong 1:1 networker, you must not only be looking for ways for you and your company to win but also looking for opportunities for others. To be a strong 1:1 networker, you have to a be a team player and you must first seek to understand and help the people around you. You have to want to help and trust that serving others well will ultimately reward you.
Peer to Peer Event-Based Networking
These are the events and organizations acting as aggregate funnels to bring like-minded or like-missioned people together often in the same physical space. While I love the idea of these organizations, unless connectivity is approached with purpose- these are the types of time sucks that can derail your personal and professional progress. More often than not, with some intention and proper planning event organizers could do so much to improve these types of events. First, they could consolidate their events that also meet the missions of many other overlapping groups. Pooling resources would go a long way. (Ahem! No one asked me.)
Anyhow, the concept makes sense. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone, or connect with multiple people at the same function. Cool, right? Wrong. Unless you’re able to establish a meaningful connection and hold a purpose-filled conversation with someone that’s a quality connection for you, you’re wasting your time, “enjoying” house wine, standing in heels that you’d rather kick off.
If you do decide to tackle these events, do so with goals in mind. Try to capture the attendee list ahead of time and try to make a point to connect with a few people.
Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg and the films that followed. Social networking is a way for your 1:1 and Peer Group connections to be more easily accessible and top of mind. Social consciousness is key. Make sure that your personal and professional brand is on point with your 1:1 persona. If there is discourse, you can cause people in your sphere of influence to question their ability to refer you. In other words, pick a lane- and a platform (or 4) and stay consistent.
Be reciprocal. If your 1:1 referral or networking partner supports you and your work, return the favor. Know, Like, Share and Engage in their posts and shared content. Even passively on social media, you can be a silent stalker OR you can be an engaging which helps you and your favorite networkers stay top of mind.
Now that you understand the buckets of networking, you must qualify which avenues are a top priority.
As a general rule of thumb I ask myself these questions before I commit my time:
- What have I heard about this person, organization or event prior to an invitation to connect?
- Is this a person, organization or event that I’ve been wanting to explore?
- Could this person, organization or event positively influence my business?
- Does this person, organization or event have the bandwidth and desire to be mutually beneficial?
- Do I have the bandwidth and desire to be mutually beneficial for this person, organization or event?
- What are the goals and objectives of this connection? And how do I make sure that we’re on track for win-wins?
Challenge yourself to peel back to basics. Edit and audit your time. Be more selective, but when you commit – COMMIT FULLY! And, most certainly- be more strategic and giving. It can make networking wonderfully impactful. Giving of your time and talents is draining. Make sure you’re getting something out of it in return, but if you expect to receive kickbacks- you must also be providing. Remember the golden rule and you’ll succeed at networking. Ignore it, and you’ll suck at networking forever.