“Have you considering Networking?” How many of you made the same face my clients or others make when I ask them this question?
I know, I know, there are rare people, somewhat like the lions in the savannah that when I ask the Networking question their answer will be: “I love Networking, bring it on!” with a spark in their eyes. Yes, there are a few of those, but many people do not enjoy networking.
In this article, I would like to invite you to consider a new way of approaching Networking. A new intention if I can suggest.
A few weeks ago one of my clients burst into a long monologue about how much they hate Networking. I get it. Believe me, I do.
Selling Me vs. Meeting People
I am pretty good with one on one conversations, but when I had to enter a big room full with strange people, I could sense how uncomfortable I was. Still, in that gap between my car/a train and a big event, I can sense how my body is closing on me. When I started my coaching business I remember telling others that there is a big distinction between selling a product you believe in and selling yourself to others. By the way, it is the same experience when you are trying to share a vision you care about or letting people know you are looking for a job.
You see, entering a room with that mindset and the assumption that what you do is selling can put you at unrest. But with time I learned that when I go into a networking event, it is not about selling me, it is about meeting people and learn about them. Now if you are a giver, who focus on being always for the other, hold on and please pay attention; I didn’t mean that your job is to come into a room with the intention to allow everyone else to talk and for you to cheer them up and ask yourself how you can help them, you are there to introduce yourself like anyone else. But rather than coming in an intention of selling conversation, come with the intention to connect. Focus on meeting cool people.
I am better with one on one conversations
Exactly! I am better with one on one conversations too. And this is your goal.
When you enter a networking event, your intention should be on how you find cool people who trigger your curiosity. People that when you talk with them, you enjoy the conversation and would love to keep the dialogue in a week or two. There are many reasons why the two of you would like to meet with each other for a one on one meeting. It might be that this is the third event you see each other and it is time to meet, or it might be that you have areas of focus that complete each other, or you see a potential of referring to each other, or they might work/ed in a company that you are trying to apply for a job opportunity. You see, the focus is NOT about selling yourself, it is about meeting exciting people and creating opportunities for you (and them) to meet with each other for a more in-depth conversation and develop relationships.
But if I I intend to create relationships, how can I sell my service or product or my need for a job?
Before I answer this question, let me ask you another question (this is what coaches do very well). When you come to a networking event or one on one meeting and the person who you are meeting with is talking about themselves for a big portion of the meeting. If you are at a big event, you can sense that while they are talking with you they are browsing with their eyes for other potential opportunities and focus more on their exchanging business cards rather than who you are and what are your needs. How that person made you feel?
When I ask this questions in a big room, I always get the same answers:
I feel unheard and invisible.
I think that they are using me to get what they want, but they don’t care about me.
They only care about their pitch they don’t care about people.
You see? In the end, we all want others to listen to our wants and needs. We want to be seen, be heard and acknowledged. This is why when you connect with people, remember to see them as people, and not as objects to serve your needs and make them feel invisible.
Get curious about their wants, get curious about who they are, ask questions, challenge yourself to find something interesting about them – and try to identify what are the interesting points that connect the two of you. This is a good way to share your story from their need and create a deeper connection.
But if I spend so much time with few people how can I reach to as many as possible so they can help me?
In the end, no one will help you if they don’t know you. People help people they know, it is rare for a stranger to help you find a job, or support your business if they don’t know you. This is why I teach my clients to attend the same places consistently. There are many groups you can join or volunteer with; Meet Up is a great place to find your people. If you like to workout find a group, you want and show up every time. If you have the time I would suggest to volunteer with an organization, there is no better way to get to know people and leaders in the organization and your community than volunteering with a committee, the board or other projects. Ask yourself how likely are you to recommend someone on your running group who you speak with twice a week for a long time vs. a person you met for a quick 5 minutes’ conversation in a networking event?
There is no networking police
If the thought of meeting so many people in a networking event can sound daunting, exhausting and frustrating, especially for the introverts in the room. Here is a tip I share with my clients and my audience: “There is no networking police in networking events.” Let me suggest a different approach, rather than meeting all the people in the room and having short and non-meaningful conversations, go into a room and find one or two people that you can have a deep and meaningful conversations. After you had that experience, if you are done, go. No one is there to report your short attendance or stats about how many people you met. The more you work on the muscle of networking you will feel less exhausted and create opportunities rather than frustration and many shallow conversations that take you nowhere.
What is one new intention you can bring or practice in your next networking, conference or other events?