When is the last time you went to a networking event and actually had a meaningful conversation with someone? All too often, people go to a networking event, with the intention of “getting” business and NOT making Connections. I too have been at fault of this myself.
When I first started networking, my perception of what networking meant, was to get my business cards into the hands of every person attending that event. I would walk in armed with 2-300 business cards. I’m not joking. If that didn’t work I made sure I took as many business cards as I could from those that were there. How naive I was!
Networking, by traditional definition, is 'to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career'.
However, we don’t live in a traditional environment today and the thinking of the “old boy’s club” is diminishing. People are and should want to focus on building relationships rather than building a Rolodex of business cards from people they aren’t even going to remember.
Think about it. When you come home from a networking event and look at your accumulated business cards, how many of the names do you actually remember? How many of the faces do you remember that belong to those names? How do you actually remember ALL of the conversations you had with them? Most, I would imagine, were a quick introduction with a ("I"m not so sure I want to touch you handshake) and an exchange of business cards, then off to the next attendee. Come on.. be honest! And then the big question: How many of those people actually give you their business and when you don’t get business from them, how many of you move on to the next networking event, never to step into that particular arena where nobody knows your name.
Now, imagine going to a networking event with the intention of meeting 3-5 people and getting to know them. What impact would it have on growing your network? My definition of networking today is:
“Building a superhighway of business relationships that can lead to unlimited possibilities in every direction”.
Today, people need to focus on building their networks by building STRONG relationships. Networking is no longer about collecting everyone’s business card at a single event, but rather focusing on meeting a few and starting a conversation that leads to a relationship; and THAT is where the magic happens.
As you get to know that person - who they are, what they like, why they do what they do, what they love about what they do, etc., etc., not only are you going to be able to refer them to the people in your network, but they are going to remember you BECAUSE you took the time to get to know them.
The law of reciprocity says “when someone does something nice for you, your hard-wired human nature determines that you do something nice for them in return”. To quote Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and co-author of The Go-Giver:
“ALL things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to people they know, like and trust.”
So the next time you find yourself at a networking event, change your strategy from collecting and giving out as many business cards as your pocket or purse can possibly hold, to meeting 3-5 people in the room. Take some time and give them your attention. Get to know them and make the conversation about them. When you create a relationship first and business second mindset, you will be surprisingly astonished at how quickly YOU will become the person people want to meet, do business with and refer people to. You will be forever having that fabulous song from the TV hit show Cheers ringing in your ears “Everybody Knows YOUR Name”!