How many times have you heard the expression ‘It’s not what you know but who you know that counts!”? Or perhaps you have heard references to the ‘Old Boy’s network’! Such a network is often blamed for an apparent high proportion of former pupils of public schools (usually male) in high status positions in government, business, and the professions. Networking has a long and somewhat chequered history.
I suppose for many of us in business, we can look back to the trade guilds for our inspiration and, of course, most of us have our professional and trade associations. Networking has clearly stood the test of time!
At the moment there are a number of well publicised business networking organizations that create models of networking activity that allow the people to build new business relationships. They are supposed to generate business opportunities at the same time. So why, oh why, do I feel so uncomfortable when attending what are advertised as networking events. I’ve thought about the issues and what would work for me and here are the rules I’m going to set myself in the future.
- Values – I will be true to myself and not behave at networking events differently to how I behave in the rest of my life. I will be my usual pleasant self but I will not become an over- ebullient superwoman with a constant and somewhat inane smile on my face! I will value the people I meet and listen to them, rather than simply seeking an opportunity to promote myself!
- Volume – I will attend fewer events that are focussed in my areas of interest. I will work hard to contribute to them instead of ‘doing the rounds’ like a coach tripper ‘doing’ Europe in ten days – ‘Oh dear is it Venice today or did they say Vienna?’
- First View – Most people know by now that first impressions are very hard to undo! I will show up looking as good as I can. I usually turn up for work and social events that way anyway, so nothing too challenging there then. Oh yes, in future, I will trot to the washroom when I arrive to check that the hair is still in place and that I don’t have froth, from the coffee I grabbed on the journey, still on my bottom lip!
- 4. Verify/Research – I will do my best to research the event and who is likely to attend! If I know who is going I can work out who I would like to meet. This will save my feet and other people’s time! Meeting one or two like minded people is likely to be far more use than exchanging business cards like confetti and never following up – see below!
- Vision not version – I will share who I am and, if it is appropriate, my vision for the future and what I want to deliver. I will not simply roll out a version of an advert for my services. If I think I can add value, then I will say so!
- Vital – I will follow up! There is no point in spending time at networking events if you don’t actually follow up. An entry in your contacts database is of limited use! You need to reinforce your first meeting with something more substantial as a follow up. Send the contact details you mentioned! Find that book you referred to on Amazon and send the link. If nothing else, send a thank-you note for their time and the interesting conversation. Otherwise you are in danger of just becoming another name in what is probably a very long list!
So I am going to make a fresh start! I shall be out there following valiantly my list above. I hope I meet you on my travels in where was it? Vienna, Venice, Oh Dear!