ed muses upon

2011/02/22

Networking Best Practices


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I’m a big fan of best practices and a fan of networking, on which subjects I have blogged before and will almost certainly blog again in the future[i]. But until now, I haven’t thought to address the subject of networking best practices—which means I’m probably way overdue.

A lot of people hear the word “networking” and get a mental picture of that guy. You know the one I mean. He shows up at networking events and by the time you’re onto the second sentence of answering his question, you can see his head swivel as he figures out whom to talk with next. The one who’s all smiles and when you go to shake his hand, hands you his business card. The one that when he follows up afterwards, isn’t listening: he’s only broadcasting.

Yeah, I’m talking about that guy. The thing is, a lot of folks think that guy is the ultimate expression of “networking”. We might even, when saying this face to face with another person, use “air quotes” around the word networking.

And that’s incredibly sad, because that isn’t what networking has to be.

What networking really needs to be about is forging an authentic connection with another person[ii]. It requires being present and actually caring what someone else is saying. Because it’s only when you’re engaged in that exchange that you’ll see opportunities to connect on something more than a fleeting, superficial level.

So with that in mind, I’d like to share a few networking best practices. There are four elements to it but ultimately, it all boils down to one word: GIVE.

Generosity

Be open to offering assistance—whether emotional support, a connection or some missing information. It doesn’t cost you very much at all. While there are going to be occasions when there’s nothing you can offer to someone you’ve just met beyond perhaps a sympathetic ear, what that person will remember is that when you met, you tried to find ways to be of assistance. And that may be more powerful than anything else you might offer.

Interest

You can’t really connect with someone if you aren’t interested in what they are saying. How else are you going to perceive opportunities to be generous if you aren’t interested in seeing them? Our perceptions shape our reality. If we are not open to possibilities we will not see them, will not act on them and hence de facto, they don’t exist to us.

Value

When you say something, be sure you are adding value to the conversation or somehow addressing what the other person is saying. The fastest way to ensure that your first conversation with someone will also be your last is to fail to add value. People form a first impression within 30 seconds so make sure the one you leave is one of which you can be proud.

Empathize

Reverse the situation: if you were in that person’s situation, what would be the critical information or insight you could provide that you’d really appreciate? For example: if someone you’ve met mentions that they never sleep well on hotel beds, and that’s why they keep yawning, why not suggest a solution that’s worked for you? Maybe a sleep mask, or earplugs, or a white noise generator are just what he or she needs to conquer that problem. Wouldn’t you appreciate that suggestion if your positions were reversed? I know I would!

Sure, people talk about the importance of good first impressions, how failure to follow up after the meeting is the same as never having met someone in the first place, etc., but the truth is that if you genuinely are engaged and interested in an authentic connection with someone…you’ll make a good first impression and you’ll absolutely follow up afterwards. You will be generous, show interest, add value and empathize.

If you’re genuinely interested, you won’t be able to help yourself: you’ll GIVE.


[i] Yes, that’s a threat!

[ii] And if for some reason you haven’t already done so, please check out Keith Ferrazzi’s seminal Never Eat Alone, which may be the authoritative book on the subject.

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16 Comments »

  1. I found your article to be very informative. I have already put much of you what you convey into action. I never offer my business card unless I’ve made a connection with someone. That usually means I’ve let them talk about themselves for a bit and then interject what I have to offer if we have something in common.

    Comment by Sherry Stoll — 2011/02/22 @ 8:09 pm

    • Hi Sherry, thanks for stopping by! I see we tend to engage people in similar fashion: I too favor hearing what they have to say and responding to it. This approach works well for me–it helps me to see how I can be most helpful to him or her.

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/02/23 @ 7:00 am

  2. Well done.

    I’m just back from my most successful networking event to date, which worked because I just walked around and talked to people and gave some advice here and there. The people I spoke with all *asked* for my card after we talked. Will it lead to work tomorrow? Probably not, and I don’t care. I had fun and I met some neat people, and if they need me in the future, great! If not, it was still fun.

    Comment by John Platt — 2011/02/22 @ 8:35 pm

    • John, much obliged for your comment, and thanks! I’d like to hear more about the networking event you attended some time, and I’m glad it went well for you! And yeah, networking events can be a great deal of fun!

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/02/23 @ 6:58 am

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Russ Knight, ed han. ed han said: Networking Best Practices http://wp.me/pouIo-4h […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Networking Best Practices « ed muses upon -- Topsy.com — 2011/02/22 @ 8:46 pm

  4. I’ve been THAT GUY, Ed! But I really try to focus on the person in front of me and find something I can learn from them. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to graduate into being beyond a student. I don’t want to. Connecting with people is a part of that…like connecting to Ed Han!

    Thanks, Ed. I appreciate your insights.

    Comment by Russ Knight — 2011/03/01 @ 11:11 am

    • Russ, thanks for taking the time to visit! I think that the truth is, we’ve all been that guy. Sometimes because we’re uncomfortable, or maybe it’s just an off night.

      I think the trick is to stop and remember why you’re there.

      Man, I’m so glad that we’ve gotten to know one another, Russ. Thanks again for stopping by!

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/03/01 @ 11:25 am

  5. Hi Ed,
    You created a great ‘recipe for networking success’ with your process of GIVE-ing. Love it! Not only does it work, but it’s memorable!

    We all must be reminded from time to time to ‘really’ focus on others. Folks appreciate the ‘energy’ involved in this meaningful exchange versus the empty feeling that results when meeting up with “that guy.”

    Great post!

    Jacqui

    Comment by Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter — 2011/03/03 @ 3:05 pm

    • Jacqui, thank you so much for stopping by, it’s great to see you here. And I really appreciate your kind words & the shout-out on Twitter!

      I can’t honestly say I was able to articulate these guidelines until I sat down to write this blog entry–but once I did, I felt really good, because the impetus was someone telling me that they found networking events a challenge as an introvert.

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/03/03 @ 3:18 pm

  6. Great post! I would add “patience” as well. I feel like the best networking relationships develop over time, and the networking event acts as the beginning of that timeline. I think a lot of people, unfortunately, expect to land a big business deal these kinds of events, when in actuality they are just the start to something greater.

    Comment by Noel — 2011/03/03 @ 5:29 pm

    • Noel, thanks for coming back! I completely agree about how people sometimes perceive this in a strange way. Your point about patience is well-taken and yes, I think you’re absolutely right. Maybe it’s an instant gratification thing? Much obliged for your kind words, too.

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/03/03 @ 6:47 pm

  7. Ed: You wonderful description isn’t just what networking needs to be about — it’s what good networking is!

    I love the acronym 🙂 In networking, when you GIVE, you build trust that will breed connections that matter.

    Thank you for a great post!

    Comment by Melissa Cooley — 2011/03/05 @ 6:32 pm

    • Thanks, Melissa! I’m really glad to see you here: thanks for the kudos! I was worried that the acronym might seem trite, so it’s really good to see that it doesn’t come off that way.

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/03/06 @ 7:35 am

  8. This is an excellent post Ed! You have really summed it up nicely. An expert on the topic of networking told me a few years ago that it’s about giving and getting and never a one-way street.

    Comment by Cyndy Trivella — 2011/03/09 @ 9:10 am

    • Cyndy, thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words: it’s much appreciated! While I don’t generally like to approach topics from the negative, I have to confess that I periodically do see “that guy” and I worry for him and how he harms his personal brand, you know?

      Comment by edmusesupon — 2011/03/09 @ 9:15 am

  9. Yes, I know what you mean.

    Comment by Cyndy Trivella — 2011/03/09 @ 9:20 am


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