Networking is one of the most talked about topics in business and career these days. How come so many people are struggling with it?
I believe it’s because the advice we hear most of the time are based on pure tactics. There is noting wrong with tactics of course. However, if they are not built on solid principles that serve as the foundation, the tactics don’t provide the desired results.
You can spend all your time executing tactics but if your foundation is missing, you live in a house of cards. As soon as the wind blows a little stronger, it falls apart.
The same applies in networking. Meeting many new people at every event is great. However, if you are not building these relationships on a solid foundation of adding value to other people’s lives and truly caring about them, it’s not effective.
What Networking is Really About
You have probably heard lots of advice on networking by now. Most of the time, it’s about making the deal, getting the job or growing the business.
There is noting wrong with having these goals. However, if that’s all you have, you miss out on the importance of the process.
The Fine Balance Between Being Strategic & Being Genuine
There are usually two kinds of extremes in networking.
Some people have a clear strategy, they know exactly what they want to get out of networking. Maybe it’s a new job, maybe it’s a new client or partnership. However, they generally lack of a genuine process.
And then, there is the other side of the table. Those who add value to other people’s lives and give, but don’t know what they want.
This black or white area is where most people reside. However, as is many areas in life, gray is where the magic happens.
If you truly want to succeed in networking, whatever that means for you, it’s essential to leverage the gray area between those two extremes. This is where the ultimate networker resides.
These outstandingly successful individuals generally have three characteristics in common with each other when it comes to building relationships.
1. They Know What They Want
Ultimate networkers have a very clear idea about the outcome of everything.
They define a clear outcome for every single meeting they go into, every call they have, every email they send and every networking event they go to.
Because they focus on the outcome, they can direct the process in the right direction. The outcome may be as simple as “putting a smile on that person’s face” or “Finding out more about that person’s goals”. It could also be “Negotiate 20% more than what has been offered” or “Make the sale”.
2. They Enrich Other People’s Lives
Ultimate networkers have a focus to enrich the lives of the people they meet. They go into a conversation by asking questions like “What are your plans?” or “What are you working on?”, not to do small talk, but to find out what desires that person has and to be able to help them achieve those goals.
They also ask questions like “What are your challenges?” or “What are you struggling with?”, not to do more market research but to be able to help them overcome those challenges.
Ultimate networkers focus on adding value to people’s lives through their time, effort or network.
3. They Care About Others
This may sound trivial but it’s not. In the daily busyness of challenges, problems, goals, kids, spouse, travels, bills, bosses, clients and all the other factors in our life, we easily get distracted from the present. We spend more time in the past or future than in the present moment.
Too many people don’t see the unique, highly talented individual with an amazing life story behind that email or phone call or at that live event. They are merely numbers, an email address or a LinkedIn profile. But guess what, behind every single one of those digital walls lies a unique human being with an unlimited potential.
The ultimate networker conditions himself to stay in the moment when he encounters people. He focuses on seeing the human being behind the guards.
Caring about others starts with a sincere “How are you?” or “How did that project work out you told me about last time?”. It goes on to remember people’s names and birthdays and sincerely care about what happens in people’s lives.
How I Met Dozens of Amazing People at Curious Courses Day 2014
A few weeks ago, I attended Curious Courses Day 2014 and it was a phenomenal experience.
I wrote about TEDxZurich in 2013 and if I compare the two events, I have to say that the transformation I went through at CC Day was more significant than at TEDx.
It was a combination of the presentations and the people I met there. Every single keynote I went to had its essence in being present and living in the now. It was a combination of spiritual teachings and very pragmatic talks.
Now, I’m not saying I am an ultimate networker. I don’t consider myself being very good at chatting up people I don’t know. However, what I am really good at is making the most out of networking at places where Value Players hang out. CC Day was one of these places.
Before the event, I set a clear outcome for the day. I wanted to meet at least half of the 19 speakers and learn new things I can implement in my business and life. I also focused on getting to know as many Value Players as possible and adding value to their lives.
There were 7 breaks that day to meet people and talk. In every break, I made sure to go to a new table with people I did not know yet. That way, I met 2-4 new people in every break. Plus, every time we went back to the presentations, I made sure to sit between two people I had never met. That added meeting 2 more new people in every break.
I did let my gut decide where to sit and not my brain. I did not think, “Who looks successful and rich” or “Who could be a potential client or partner” but I sat where it felt right. Interestingly, I met 5 of the speakers just by letting my gut decide where to sit.
At the end of the day, there was a networking apero and I got to meet at least 5 other speakers, including the world champion in public speaking 2011.
I also talked to countless inspiring participants and got introduced to other people through those I met earlier that day.
In addition to all of this, I learned invaluable lessons and skills to apply in my life and business to be more creative, focused, make the right decisions and achieve my goals faster.
5 Steps to Make the Most Out of Your Next Event
- Define the outcome for the event before you go there. This will condition your brain to say and do the right things.
- Research the speakers and if possible the participants to know who attends and to decide who you must meet.
- Show up when the doors open. Be one of the first people at the event. This way, you can greet the people who are arriving and get into conversations right away.
- Never sit next to the same people twice. Continue to change your spots, no matter if you are sitting or standing.
- Follow up with everybody you met after the event. Say thank you and mention something they talked about. Add value to their lives.
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