The Lost Art of Networking

by Cathy Hammer

Remember when it was actually enjoyable to attend a networking event?  Even after a long day of work, you could look forward to connecting with people who shared your interests.  Some might even be able to help you reach an important goal.  More often now, you can expect to be “treated” to a series of unsolicited sales pitches and then head for home with a pocket full of business cards you’re going to toss as soon as you get there.

It seems that as more of our community is built online, many business owners have forgotten what makes live networking such an important step in their development process.  It isn’t the same as marketing and it certainly isn’t selling.  At its core, networking is about cooperating with others in order to achieve success for all.

When working the room, the goal is to share ideas, information and resources, not close deals.  4Views offers these suggestions for setting the right tone at your next networking event.

Break the Ice

  • Approach people who display positive and inviting body language.  Don’t interrupt any intense private conversation.
  • Try opening with a question relative to the event and then really listening to the answer.  Not only might you gain useful knowledge, but you will empower the other person by letting them be the expert.
  • Find common ground.  People develop confidence in those with whom they feel a connection.

Pair Up

  • Try attending with co-workers and referral partners to feel more at ease.  Just make sure to talk to new people as well as to each other.
  • Start a chain reaction by introducing your networking buddies to people you know in the room; then ask those people who else you should meet.
  • Promote each other.   It’s easier for you to make a flattering remark about a colleague than it is for him to talk up his own achievements.

Follow-up

  • Hand out your card only after common ground as been established.  You are making it easy for the other person to reach you in order to continue a conversation.
  • If you agree to provide or receive anything (information, leads, resources etc.), write a reminder on the back of both the card you are giving and the one you are receiving.
  • Follow up promptly and warmly via email or phone.  Maybe you can recommend another appropriate event for you and your new contact to attend together.

If we all conduct ourselves in this collaborative manner, perhaps with time others will follow suit.   Please share your experiences with us.

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