As I review the past few months and plan for the next, I am struck by the amount of networking and follow-up meetings I have been doing recently. I’ve attended breakfasts and lunches, small groups, large and even larger, loud groups, had coffee, tea and drinks with a number of people and had many interesting conversations. I hadn’t intended to do so much and have turned down a number of invitations, but I am motivated by meeting and sharing ideas with interesting people.
Many of the people I’ve met have been a delight, generous in their insights and openness. There’s the occasional person, of course, who obviously has not read those articles about how we should, or should not, behave in a networking situation, e.g. the lady who approached me, forced her business card into my hand and said ‘if you need employment law support, call me!’ and promptly walked away without further discussion. As you might imagine, that card went straight in the bin!
Much is written about the benefits of networking and how we should conduct ourselves, but what conclusions have I drawn from my own review?
• Try different networking groups to see which style suits you. I found that smaller groups, with longer conversations and a little less ‘circulation’ allows more time to get to know people, build common ground and understand their needs more.
• If an event doesn’t feel right the first time, try it a second time as the first time might have been a personal ‘off’ day. However, if it doesn’t feel right a second time, try something else.
• I try to avoid events where I am forced to attend on a regular basis because that becomes a ‘job’ rather than a positive experience. I also avoid events where the norm is to exchange business cards in the first few seconds, as that just equates to many brief conversations.
• Networking outside of my profession broadens my perspective of the wider business context and of the world in general.
• The right environment adds much to a networking event, so for me somewhere that is not time-limited creates a much more comfortable environment.
• Many people are generous in sharing ideas, experiences and suggestions so be as generous to those who support you.
• Sometimes I have to challenge myself to enter a room of strangers, but rarely is it anything other than a pleasant occasion and generally much more.