A networking secret few people understand: Be engaged AND engaging
So I’ve been at this networking game for some time now, and yet I still regularly come across people who don’t see the value. “It just never works for me,” they wail. Here’s the thing: lots of people attend a single networking event, fail to meet anyone or find a customer, and assume networking just doesn’t work. Even those who’ve been in a group for a while may not be getting any business from the group – but there’s always a reason!
Ask yourself the following questions about your networking memberships:
- How often do you come late and leave early?
- How often do you text during the meetings or get up to take a phone call?
- How many people in the core group do you know by name?
- How many people know your name?
- How many people’s businesses do you know well enough that you can describe them to someone else?
- How many people understand precisely the kinds of books you write?
- How often have you made a referral to someone else in the group?
- How often have you talked about anything other than your latest book at a meeting?
- How often have you invited another member to coffee or lunch?
- How often have you sent a handwritten note to another member?
- How often have you donated a gift or door prize?
With the exception of the first two questions, more is better for all of the above. My rule of thumb has always been that you can’t really begin to expect to see results from a group until you have attended long enough for people to miss you when you skip a meeting.
Networking is kind of like church … or school … or relationships … or pretty much any other aspect of life. You get out what you put into it. If you go into it viewing it as a chore, something you have to do, as opposed to a fun opportunity to meet new people and eventually grow your circle of influence, you are significantly affecting your outcomes ahead of time. Think about it. How attracted would you be to someone who muttered, played with the drink in his hands, and looked at his feet while you were introducing yourself? On the other hand, how attracted would you be if the same person smiled broadly and seemed genuinely happy to meet you?
Now, step back a minute and view the scene again, this time watching Mr. Mutterer meet Happy Smiley Guy. Which one more closely matches your persona at a networking event? I understand that not everyone is an extrovert, and that networking can prove challenging for those who are naturally less outgoing. We’re going to talk about that very thing in the next post. Nevertheless, think about your goals again. What do you want to accomplish? If it’s to expand your circle and create greater name recognition, you’ll need to cheer up and embrace networking like you actually enjoy it.
You’ve heard of faking it till you make it, right? Chances are that if you give yourself the opportunity to enjoy meeting new people, sooner than later you actually will enjoy meeting new people and networking will seem like less of a chore.
Make your next networking event a research project. Watch the engaging people. What makes them so interesting and enjoyable to be around? What do they do? How do they speak? How do they carry themselves? How can you mimic a little of their mojo while still making it your own? You’ll likely come across as a phony if most of them know you as Mr. Mutterer but, out of nowhere, you begin employing a big hearty laugh and slapping people on the back.
Here’s one thing to keep in mind: interesting people are interested people. Genuinely focusing on the other person is a great way to make a good first impression. It also helps shift the focus from yourself and any worry you might have about what you’ll say or how you’ll be perceived.
Even if you’ve never seen the value of networking, I encourage you to go into it with a new mindset and give it another try. Then come back and tell us about your experiences!
Here’s to your new networking success!
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