Everyone hates networking … except those who truly understand it.
As a dedicated shmoozing hater, I logged into a free seminar today in my Bellingham, WA office: Darcy Rezac’s Work the Pond. (The seminar link is here, and Darcy’s site is here.) I have to say, it was an hour well spent.
I had recently read on Guy Kawasaki’s blog that the best definition of networking ever was Darcy’s: “Discovering what you can do for someone else.” Put that way – as long as it’s real, and not just a superficial gloss over an avaricious interior – networking becomes a lot more palatable.
It’s not just me meeting people and getting business cards because I think that one day I can sell something to them or get them to hire me or otherwise benefit me. It’s people meeting people and communicating and sharing and helping each other. Much easier to swallow, and much less off-putting – at least for me.
Keep reading for my notes from the seminar. Better yet, check it out yourself in a spare hour (if you have one).
Networking is not equal to selling.
Networking is “discovering what you can do for someone else.” It’s opening and maintaining a relationship.
Two kinds of networking: transactional versus positive
Transactional is about me, referrals, contacts, and revenue. Positive is about others, relationships, conversations, and reputation.
The 6 degrees of separation idea is real and scientific … Stanley & Milgram published the first real studies on it in 1967 at Harvard. Idea: we are all connected to anyone in the whole world by no more than 6 handshakes. (People all have their own “small world” stories: Darcy encourages sharing them at workthepond.com.
Networking doesn’t happen unless you talk. Sit at a different table than your colleagues at the convention … etc.
The biggest successes in life don’t come from your friends but your acquaintances. Check the book The strength of weak Ties by Mark Granovetter. People find jobs from their acquaintances – not friends.
Always carry cards with you. Always get cards. Always give cards. When do you give someone your business card? As soon as you can after you meet them.
Japan, exchange of business cards. Use both hands, hold at 45 degrees facing the person you’re giving it to, and when you get one, make a nice comment about it, and a question about the person based on what you see.
Networking by the numbers
At any networking opportunity, try to meet at least 7 people. How? One way is to rescue “wallflowers,” people who aren’t talking to anyone, and are on the edges of the room.
Spend 10-12 minutes with each person.
Some people will be rude when you introduce yourself to them. You’re going to have that. Don’t let it deter you. Move on.
Answering the “so what do you do” question
So many people seem unprepared to answer this question. Don’t use buzzwords. Explain what you do as simply as you would explain it to your grandmother.
Darcy calls it the “tribal introduction” … 21 seconds or less. It should prompt the next question, tell something about yourself (personal branding), your company (company branding), and your community (community branding).
How to network
Travel in pairs … When you forget names, one of you can do the step-forward rescue. Also, can do introductions for each other: give glowing introductions. When you’re at a dinner table, stuck in a cone of silence, your tag team member can hel you get into the conversation.
Learn to ask good questions – get people talking about their passions. Then listen.
You do have to know something interesting too … “it’s hard for an empty bag to stand up.” Benjamin Franklin
Learn the power of stories. Sonja Bata of Bata stores sent two salesmen to Africa in the 1950s. One guy says: “No market potential here: no one wears shoes.” The other guy says: “Unlimited market potential here: no one wears shoes.” Memorable stories make you memorable
How much networking to do
Go to 1 event a week. Make 7 contacts a week. That make 350 contacts a year.
3 years later you’ll be connected to 1000 new networks (not people, but networks)!
What about Linked In?
Internet networking is not nearly as good … face to face is best. Hand-written notes better than email. Say yes to events, and bring a guest.
(Side note: I wonder how this relates to blogs, which are a form of networking … trackbacks, links, comments are all social and potentially networking opportunities. Rezac doesn’t appear to be too up on these. Of course, the book may have something to say about it: he just didn’t say anything about it in this seminar.)