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29 May 2012
I remember trying to learn how to network. There was very little available and the Internet was not the source of information it is today. I was a sales person and was looking for a replacement for cold calling. I hated cold calling. In the pursuit of becoming an excellent networker, I tried all of the techniques I could learn but they never seemed to unlock the secrets of real networking. So for bettor or worse, I developed my own system. Now it is almost 20 years since attending my first networking function and business networking is one of my favorite business activities. My business depends on it.
However, when I ask people about business networking, most people cringe.
They tell me that it is something for the gregarious. It is for those that have outgoing personalities. It is for the chatty. It is difficult for the shy, the introverted, engineers, technical people, scientists, it is not for the “serious” professions, it is not for the "quiet people", it is more useful for sales and commercial people. One person told me that networking makes her queasy. “I’m not the sort of person that pushes myself forward. I only network when I have to and I don’t really get a lot of benefit from it,” she said.
When I network, I apply the following steps in equal portions:
- Clear strategy and goals,
- Make myself more visible,
- Meet new people, and
- Keep in touch with interesting and relevant contacts.
Meeting people is a part of the recipe, but only one part.
When asked about business networking, everyone immediately wants to talk about step 3: meeting new people. I know what they don’t know: they are asking how to be better at meeting people, not better at networking. Networking is finding people that you need to meet and knowing why you want to meet them, becoming someone others want to meet, meeting people, and what you do with the contacts going afterwards.
Networking is something that all business people need to do well and is a skill that most people do poorly. Why is that? On the Internet and in the bookstores there is a lot of information on business networking - lots and lots of information available, and clubs, and professional associations, and networking events, and blogs, and tips, etc. So, why are so many people having difficulty with business networking?
To find the answer, I read many networking books (many very well written and informative) and read hundreds of articles on networking. I asked myself if I could learn to network the way I do from the information available. The honest answer is no. I could learn how to meet people, this is true, and learn something about networking - some people offer excellent advice and clearly understand about networking, but I do not believe that I would network the way that I do now and with the same results. Not in the instinctive, second-nature way that makes networking fulfill its promise.
Why is that? Because you need more information about the parts of networking that proceed and follow meeting people. You need different information and someone to put it all together into a system. Because you need to learn a variety of skills first-hand from different types of networkers to understand why they do certain things and what benefits they gain. Because you need to know what most people do and how good networkers differ from the average. Because you are too busy to read hundreds of articles. Because you need to have equal parts of Strategy, Visibility Planning, Meeting People, and Network Building to get the most from business networking. You need a system that teaches you what to do. You need a Networking Workshop.
It is time to change my role from student to teacher and put “pen-to-paper” (or rather, fingers-to-keyboard) to create The Networking Workshop. A systematic approach to business networking.
The Networking Workshop
Throughout The Networking Workshop, you will learn the experiences of five real people – different personalities with different networking needs – and discover their networking techniques in detail. Different techniques and different perspectives. It is important that you have a resource to learn the different techniques that people use and to understand why they do what they do. And you will learn my experience of what “Most People” do in the same situations.
Currently The Networking Workshop is planned to be released in four eBooks:
- Strategy and Goals
- Increasing Visibility
- Meeting People
- Network Building
Together, the four books will detail the skills of some of the best networkers that I know and provide you with strategies and techniques to use in different situations.
Book 3 will be published first!
Book 3 is being written first to satisfy the demand of “how to Meet People” and it is set at an industry networking function. Together, we can work through the different aspects of a networking event.
Meeting People will discuss:
- Creating a game plan: Strategy, Preparation, Goals, and Tactics
- How to meet people
- Starting and ending a conversation
- Using business cards
- Working the room
- How to book the next meeting
How can you help?
I am looking for people who are interested in reviewing Meeting People and providing feedback – both positive and negative. The target market is business people that are finding business networking challenging. Meeting People is aimed at around 20,000-25,000 words, and I hope to have the first part finished later this week. I would like to receive feedback on the first ~5,000 words in the next two weeks. If all goes according to plan, a full version will be completed by the end of June. This is an ambitious timeframe, but I really want to bring the book to market as soon as possible.
Although it is a bit scary sending chapters of a book out into the world to be criticized, a bit like letting your children out of your sight for the first time, feedback is essential to producing a book that answers your needs. If you would are interested in providing feedback and constructive comments, please send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise that I will keep your contact details in strictest confidence.
For those who assist, I will give you an electric copy of Meeting People when it is finished with an acknowledgement of your contribution.
Kind regards and I hope to hear from you soon!
20 May 2012
The lady beside me at the networking party said, “if you think I meet people easily, you should meet my father!”
“Hey, that’s what I always say!” I replied.
What we had in common were Dads that had traveled a lot because they were in the military - different militaries from different countries, but with something in common. Our Dads had to change job, town, friends at least every three years for their entire careers. Our Dads had to learn how to meet people. Our Dads had learned how to take the sting out of meeting people.
What does Dad advise? Does he really know best?
- Always be yourself, it’s easier than trying to remember two stories
- Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers, you might just learn something from the experience
- Lead the conversation by asking a question the other person can answer
- Follow with another question that they can answer
- Know your own answers to the same two questions, because they are likely to ask you back
- It won’t hurt you to be friendly and civil
How does this work in practice and is it advice that requires you to be gregarious before you begin? No. These are simple and practical tips on meeting people that can be applied to any business networking situation.
Let’s try an example. I walk up to you at a business networking function.
1. Always be yourself. This is straight forward advice. If you meet me, I expect that it won’t take you long to discover if I am genuine or if I am a fake. This is advice that works both ways. Also, he is right. If you are genuine, you only have one story that you need to know. Any more and you are bound to mix up the details.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers goes against most of the advice we have been given our whole lives. My Mother was always making sure that we did not talk to strangers. But Dad has another angle. We are adults and meeting new people opens a source of new information to us. “More input” as my daughter would say. New people have different experiences, knowledge, and backgrounds. Dad is right. We can learn things by meeting new people.
3 and 4. Lead the conversation by asking a question that the other person can answer. This gives the asker two advantages. One is that I am taking control of the conversation by asking the first question and choosing the topic. The second is that I am giving the you a chance to look good and put you at ease. Dad’s favourite opening question is “Where are you from?” He says that this is a question that everyone can answer. His follow up question is “What is it like there?” You can see where this is going, “How did you get here?” and so on. These are all questions you can answer.
5. Know the answers to the same questions because you are likely to ask me back. This is obvious. Asking people questions that I cannot answer myself means that I am not really treating you fairly in the first place. I am not being genuine or nice. It is better to be nice. Which leads directly to number 6.
6. It won’t hurt me to be friendly and civil. It is likely that you will treat me the same way in return.
And herein lies the big secret. If you are genuine and well mannered, you approach people with a couple of questions that you know they can answer, and then they ask you back and you give well considered answers, and you talk for a bit, you are having a conversation. You can then ask more questions, give a bit more information about yourself, and voila, you are networking.
And that, my friends, is why Father knows Best. Dad is a great networker.
Have a nice day,