I was recently at a networking luncheon and the table conversation turned at the end. The table leader asked everyone at the table how we can make these programs better in the future? It was a great question and we came up with some wonderful suggestions. In the end, I asked the question I thought was critically important; do most people really know why they attend networking events at all? As a business development practice, going to networking events is part of the playbook, it's what we're supposed to do. But why?
I've given this topic a lot of thought. Over two decades ago when I started going to networking events there was one reason to go, to find new business. I find that most people I meet are going to networking events looking for new business. They are approaching each person seeing if that person would be a potential client and if they could purchase your services. If not, do they know anyone in their network that can use their services. Isn't that why we go to networking events? Isn't that why we do all of our marketing and business development activities?
My observation is this, looking for business is the predominant mindset I observe and I believe that is one of the most counter productive mindsets you can have. So, if we're not going to networking events to get more business why would we go at all? This brings us to the conversation about how business is really developed. It has often been said that people do business with people that they know and like. If this is true, which I believe it is, then why don't we go to networking events to find people we might like? In addition, why don't we give of ourselves freely, introducing people to others that might be able to help them?
At this point in my life, after 25 years of practice, I go to networking events for one reason only. I go to see if I can find some people that I would like to have a further conversation with. That's it. I get a sense of who I'm talking with and whether our styles are a match. I've said many times that I'm looking for people with four major characteristics:
1. People that are self-aware 2. People that want to leave this planet better than we found it 3. People that get sh*t done! 4. People that are total givers
I'm going to networking events to find the people that have some, if not all, of these characteristics. If they do, I want to get to know them better. If I get to know them better they will probably hang out with others that share these characteristics and maybe there's an opportunity for us to help each other. This is a two way street, one that allows us to give as much, if not more, than we receive. If we go to networking events with the mindset of giving and seeing who we might want to develop a better relationship it frees us up to be kind and considerate. It gives us the opportunity to get to know the other person at the event as a human being, not a piece of meat that we can get something from. In the end, the other person can feel our intention, it comes across loud and clear.
So, the next time you're at a networking event please think about why you're there. Are you trying to get to know people, to get a gist of who they are, or are you trying to sell them something? As human beings we need to build deeper and stronger relationships and that starts with having a clear understanding of what you're looking for in the first place. I hope that your next networking event is a wonderful exploration in trying to find a few new friends.