Stuck in Networking Hell? Here Are 4 Steps to Create Connecting Nirvana Instead
The following article is from an upcoming guest from TheBookDistrict.com Podcast, Ideas That Make An Impact, with Joyce Layman. Enjoy…
“Not another meeting…”
This has become the mantra for every corporate suit whose schedule is bursting with appointments, but networking is just as stressful. You spend your entire day meeting and greeting, exchanging business cards, and planning to email just about everyone in the cluster of states surrounding you. It’s looking like a busy week, and you’re ready to pull your hair out just thinking about it.
There are other things you could be doing instead of attending another boring event and meeting the same people again. Whatever the reason, you’d better hope there’s a Starbucks nearby so that you can load up on caffeine; you’re going to need it.
Why Do We Hate Networking?
A University of Toronto study by Professor Tiziana Casciaro found that working adults who participated felt “demoralized” when attending networking events due to the self-promoting and self-serving behaviors they had to show. However, senior partners that had been promoted to their positions due to high attendance at several networking events viewed the events in a much more positive light.
Just for the record, networking doesn’t always mean attending an event. There are other ways to forge relationships. It’s time to stop networking and focus more on connecting. By following these four steps, you can turn networking hell into connecting nirvana.
#1 — Networking Starts With Your Brand
A powerful personal brand has everything to do with connecting because your brand could be the first experience that someone has with you. A potential client might look you up online. Or someone you’re introduced to through email might check out your LinkedIn profile. Or one of your strategic partners might give your business card to a new contact. In each of these situations, your personal brand is critical, whether your goal is to sell a product, build a business, attain another position within your current company, find a new opportunity, or become a thought leader in your industry. Wherever you go and whatever you do, your brand influences how you connect.
A personal brand is about taking a proactive approach to create and manage perceptions and conversations about you in person and online. If you don’t control your brand, somebody else can. You may be the best at what you do, but how others perceive you is just as important. People may not take the time to get to know you if they don’t see a reason to. Judgments — whether right or wrong — are still made.
#2 Stop Talking Business!
Think back to the last event you enjoyed (hopefully there have been several!). It doesn’t have to be a networking event; it can be an outing with family and friends, a holiday party or sweatworking activity Whatever the event, you were relatively at ease and enjoyed the time you spent there.
Conversations you had at these events felt natural and pleasant because there was no pressure to make a sale or snag another client. When the pressure is off, we tend to let our conversations flow without the hesitation we normally feel at networking events. The trick is to stop thinking of it as a networking event and more of a chance to make a connection. It doesn’t have to be all business all the time. Meaningful connections start with a meaningful conversation.
#3 — Get Out Of the Office
Your best connections can happen outside of a networking event. You don’t always have to hold meetings in an office or professional setting. Depending on who you are meeting with and what the goal of your meeting will be, you can adjust your settings to somewhere more comfortable. Obviously, if you’re going to be talking about something private, you’ll need a quiet space to discuss business.
I’m not saying you have to use the coffee shop for every meeting, but you should intentionally plan a meeting there once or twice a week. What’s even better is blocking your meetings so you can introduce the person you are meeting with to the one who is leaving. This could be a referral partner, potential client or someone you’re interested in exploring business opportunities with. If someone you know walks in, make an introduction. Opportunities like this aren’t possible if you’re stuck in an office.
#4 — Think Social
When it comes to networking, a lot of people tend to forget about social media. Social media is a great way to connections for both personal and professional use and was my ticket to making some of my most valuable connections and expanding my personal brand.
The key is using it strategically. It’s like one big game of “Six Degrees of Separation.” Social media gives you the opportunity to connect with potential referral partners and clients who are on the same platform you are. Depending on which platform you’re using, there are different ways to connect. If you’re on LinkedIn, you can send them a customized invitation to connect. Twitter may simply be a matter of following them and retweeting their content to get the conversation started.
If it’s Facebook, for example, who are the friends that you haven’t talked to in awhile or could be a beneficial connection in business? There’s no time like the present to reach out. Set a goal of reaching out to at least one person a week to reconnect. It’s amazing how taking a little time each week can expand your network.
Remember — networking doesn’t just mean attending an event and doesn’t have to be a mini version of hell either. Your connecting advantage can be achieved with a few simple, easy-to-follow steps. After all, it’s not rocket science.
- Stop talking business and just start talking!
- Get out of the office and find the right meeting place.
- Think social.
Why wait to start connecting? You can connect with me on Instagram and Twitter @joycelayman, Facebook and LinkedIn. There’s always old-fashioned email too for questions and feedback — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time…
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