Don’t Be This Person at the Networking Event…

A few weeks ago, I went to a structured networking happy hour event with Samantha and although I am usually a fan of networking, by the end of the night, I found myself frustrated by the ineffective outcomes.

We talked with over half a dozen professionals that evening, and all but one seemed to operate from a standard manual of how they thought you are supposed to behave at a networking event:

  1. Shake hands and introduce yourself
  2. Immediately ask, “What do you do?” 
  3. Listen, nod, then respond with a 2-minute elevator speech about your services and why the other person should want to hire you or refer you to someone
  4. After a 5 minute conversation, hand out your card and say, “Nice to meet you.” 

As each of these professionals went into their canned-elevator pitch, after learning my name and hearing about what I do for one minute, I found myself thinking every time, “That’s great that you offer these services and you seem nice, but I don’t know anything else about you.  I don’t know if you’re good at what you do, I don’t know if you do what you say you will, I don’t know why you’re different from the other professionals I’ve met in your field, and I have no idea if my referral of you to someone else is credible or not, because I just met you and have talked to you for 1 minute.” 

The only person that I did end up connecting with following the event was a woman with whom I had a lovely conversation for 15 minutes – only about 30-seconds of which was about what we do for a living.  We spent the majority of the time talking about books we love, her kids, and my nephews.  She was interesting and like-able.  We scheduled a follow up coffee date and now I am interested in learning more about her services which support book-keeping for small businesses.

This experience compelled me to share my thoughts, because I find that so many professionals treat networking events like a sales pitch, instead of an opportunity to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with other people.

When you attend an event like this, almost every person’s top priority is to promote what they are doing or to find a job – without really being interested in what you do.

My belief is that you will create more opportunity by being a person who shows a genuine interest in other people.

As Dale Carnegie says, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Now, I understand that networking events are structured to be shorter meet-and-greets. So, what are some practical ways you can show interest with someone you are meeting for the first time?

  • First, ask questions to learn about what they do.  Do they like what they do? What’s their favorite thing about their career? What did they do before what they do now? What led them to this career?
  • Second, ask them questions that will lead to how you can add value to them.  What are their goals? What is a priority to them? How can you support them as they work to achievement?
  • Third and very importantly, follow up.  Email every person with which you interacted and tailor each email to your conversation. Make it personal.  Brainstorm how you could truly add value to someone else that you met and offer this value. Whenever you help someone, they will be inclined to think of a way they could potentially help you too.  You can even ask them to coffee or lunch to learn more about their business or their goals.  And be interested to learn about it – why does this person do what they do?  What do they want to achieve? How could you help?

Always start out with curiosity.  Get to know people.  Then, focus on what value you can add to the other person.

Remember, whether you are just starting out, switching industries, or a seasoned professional – key relationships can make a significant impact on your career.  And these relationships can be created through networking events, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort!

Comments

  1. Cindy Dell

    I love this! I’ve always hated networking events for the reason you mention, and always feeling like a failure if I didn’t get x# of business cards. Leaving with 1 or 2 cards of individuals in whom I feel are worth investing time is a much greater win for me ? Great post Alex!

    1. Alex

      Thank you for the feedback, Cindy! I believe a lot of people struggle with networking for this very reason. But I believe in quality over quantity!

Add A Comment