Your boss says: “Make sure you go to this event tonight, its an important opportunity to network.”
You say, “Ugh, really?”
I say, “Go! You never know what’s going to happen or what it will be like. But only go if you’ll have fun doing it!”
Here’s the point. As social animals, we need to communicate to one another to discover if we can be mutually useful for each other. Keep in mind, networking is just as daunting to others as it is to you. If you approach it that way…you don’t have to think “blind date.” To some it’s repelling, to others it’s a fun adventure. The ones who regard it as a fun adventure have fun no matter what. So should you.
Do’s and Don’ts of Networking
An essential Do of networking is to hold it as an opportunity to meet other people to make a difference with them. You are giving them something, a connection, and in return you are receiving one as well. And as we all know, we never know where a connection is going to lead or when it might result is some big business for you. Don’t sell it short!
That being said, an essential Don’t is to approach the event as a contest of scoring the most contacts to follow up with. People know when you are disingenuous and are just “making the rounds.”
Do be interested in what people have to say. Sure, you’ll run into the eternal bore every so often but most of the time, people have interesting things to say, if you let them. I’ve often spoken about being interested, not interesting. Wow does this apply here!
Related, Don’t dominate conversations. We’ve all heard this funny phrase, “Ok, enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?” Make sure you are asking probing questions about the person you meet. Be genuine when you ask someone about themselves. The great Dale Carnegie once said, “I will always know more about you than you know of me; not because I have anything to hide but because I’m genuinely interested in learning about someone else and about what they do.”
Therefore, Don’t ask pointed questions that put people on the defensive. Your goal should be to start a dialogue. It’s spontaneous and respectful. Asking something like, “Don’t you just hate these networking things?” is a non-started that won’t lead to any positive outcome.
Do share yourself. People can see through when you are just being your “corporate” self and not being real. Sure, you don’t have to reveal all elements of your private life but, giving people some insight into who you are makes them more interested in learning more about you. You may find you share a common passion for something that could create the foundation for a strong business relationship.
The overall goal is to build new relationships that in time can lead to a business relationship. Networking, while you may now consider is a necessary evil, will in time become something you may enjoy if you follow these tips.
Try it and let me know