Do you like networking?
Some people love it. I think it sucks.
I'd much rather be on my couch watching Netflix with my fat, fluffy, Australian Shepherd/Poodle, Brady, than waltzing around some cocktail party, shaking hands, kissing babies, and flinging out business cards like they're hundos at a club.
And yet, that's exactly how I grew my first business from $12,000/year to the Inc.5000 list.
Everyone wants to succeed and succeed quickly, but the truth is that who we know really matters in life and in business. And, until we can send our digital avatars to interact with each other on our behalf, we still have to show up and meet people in order to spread our networks and take advantage of this effect.
To that end, if you want to maximize your networking, consider these tips I've learned over the years:
- Go crazy. Nobody remembers a boring person, but they do remember the one who wore bright orange shoes, insisted on dancing with every new person they met, and otherwise made a lasting impression. The professional environment can be stuffy, so naturally, everyone will gravitate to the person who's just the right amount of crazy. A friend of mine actually does wear orange shoes, and now he's become known for it (people actively seek out the dude with orange shoes). What are your orange shoes that people will remember you by?
- Relax and stay awhile. One of the most esteemed Ivy League professors I've ever met told me that the statistical analysis shows that people who drink more and stay longer at events make the most (and most meaningful) connections. Think about it: As people leave, the circle gets tighter and tighter so you spend more time with who's left. Maybe there's an after-event drink that everyone goes to where even more connections can happen. When you stick around you will develop deeper relationships with a core group, which is always the way to expand your network most profitably.
- Be prepared. Go into every event knowing what you're looking for, and let that guide your talking point. This is different than "tell everyone your elevator pitch." Instead, it's being prepared with one key question, like, "what's one thing you're needing right now?" and being prepared to answer that question in return. If you go just to meet people, you might miss the opportunity to steer conversations your way. For instance, I might go into a networking event with my book in mind. In that case, I'm going to try to steer each conversation towards books, then casually drop that I'm writing one, and see where the conversation goes from there. Otherwise we might talk about cats all night, which is not exactly useful.
- Get up and go. In life, timing is everything. The event you miss because you just don't feel like going might be the one where you met a person who changed your business trajectory. Or, maybe it's a flop. But you can't know unless you go. Repetition is important -- the more people see you, the more they associate you with being someone on the scene who's important to know. So even if you're clinging to your dog and the remote control, remind yourself that most people choose to remain on the couch...and that's why most people never reach their dreams.
Networking is human psychology 101. It doesn't take a Ph.D. to be good at it. Just show up, be memorable, prepare well, stay awhile and keep at it. No matter what technology we adopt, humans are humans...so don't discount the role that networking can play in growing your business.