If you’re like me you find the whole idea of networking stressful. Walking into a room of people, making small talk…but over the years I went from terrified to networking champ. Here’s one strategy and one tactic that will make all the difference.
Let’s take the awkward out of networking. In this video, one strategy and one tactic that will make all the difference. Networking, if you’re like me, the whole idea of networking it’s just awful. Maybe you don’t like small talk, maybe you find yourself under a lot of pressure, “oh, I have to get the leads, I have to close a business, I have to meet new people” Maybe you just don’t like meeting people, maybe you don’t like people, I don’t know, whatever it is you don’t like the idea of networking, and I think the problem is we put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we think about the concept of networking. But, the truth is, if you’re a professional today, and if you run your own business, or you’re a senior or executive manager, you just got to get out there and meet people, it’s what it’s all about. And even more important today than five years ago, because we’re so insulated from others, technology has done that, so the moment you actually meet someone is an important moment. So, how can you make it a more comfortable experience for yourself so that it’s more fruitful?
The first thing I think we need to do is eliminate the word networking from our vocabulary because it’s loaded, let’s think about it as something else, let’s think about it as cross-pollination. So, being these wonderful little creature, and they alight upon a flower, and they pick up a little pollen and then they fly to another flower and drop some pollen off, picking up some more pollen and going to another flower and repeat the process. They make honey, we get fruits and vegetables, it’s a great deal, it works for everybody, and that’s really what the concept of cross-pollination is, works for everyone, work for you and everyone you interact with in a room.
I’ll give you a really good example; I was recently seated next to an attorney who was clearly at the end of his career, and I thought to myself, “oh my goodness, this is rather awkward. The chances that he might refer business to me or vice versa are slim to none” What to do? So, in this situations the first thing that I do is I ask a question, because asking question takes pressure off of you, and I actually was genuinely interested about his area of the law, the environment, New Jersey is a toxic waste dump, and sometimes I drive down the road and go “Wow, that’d be a really cool building to have my office, I’d love to buy it” and they I think “It might have toxic waste beneath it, how would I know? How could I be really assured that there wasn’t a former dry-cleaning plant beneath it?” So, I began by prefacing my question to this fellow with my genuine curiosity, and he just opened up, and he was so pleased to be asked a question about something that he had spent his career working at, something that was of interest to him. You know, the question betrayed a desire for a little bit of scuttlebutt on my part, I wanted to learn something I couldn’t ordinarily find on google. He heard that in my question and he answered that with something you wouldn’t have been able to “easily” google, some scuttlebutt, some insider knowledge about his domain, and that was very cool. We had a wonderful conversation, and a great interaction, and a “Hey, I learned something”.
But, here’s the thing, I can take what I learned from that interaction and take it to my next conversation. If go into a meeting with a client or prospect in an ancillary or similar, or parallel, or maybe the same domain, I could be more informed when I ask them questions, or if I’m in a room with people who all have similar backgrounds, I can move from that question and answer interaction to the next one informed and say “hey look, I heard over here from that fellow that thus and such happen, what do you think about that? Did you experienced the same thing in your work?” and thus, you become the queen bee, or the hostess with the mostess, or whatever. You can move from one conversation to the next asking questions and getting great information, and really engaging in a meaningful way, and that’s how I got myself comfortable in networking. Whoops, did I use that work? Networking? No, cross-pollination.