I try to practice what I preach, so I’ve been making an effort to attend in-person networking events. Every time I go to these events, I learn something! This week’s lesson: don’t network like a bumper car.
Many networkers at the event seemed to spend their one-on-one time in pursuit of their next contact. You know the type: shifty eyes, impatient body language and unfocused conversations. I found it difficult to connect with these networkers, as it seemed that they were much more interested in the next conversation than in the current one!
In watching them interact during the night, they reminded me of bumper cars, haphazardly moving around the room, without any direction or focus. Maybe, incidentally, this type of networker will bump into someone and have a valuable interaction, but it seems more likely that this style would prevent meaningful interactions. After all, who would be interested in someone who doesn’t seem very interested in them?
On the flip side, I had several excellent networking conversations that reminded me how easy it is to form a connection with a stranger. I spoke to one person, a painter, for some time. Obviously a skilled networker, he asked about my work and talked to me about his business. Throughout the conversation, he was very focused on what I was saying, his eye contact focused on me (not his next “target”), and his responses to my questions were on point.
During our conversation, I felt that I had a strong sense of his professionalism and business philosophy. When we were finished speaking, I made a mental note to give him a call when I was ready to move forward with some painting projects I’ve had in mind.
Incidentally, his background and personal network turned out to be very related to my own networking goals, as he is very connected to the HR and recruiting world. So, in addition to the opportunity to learn about him and his business, he may be able to provide some valuable contacts for my business. This is another example of the fact that you can’t judge a book by its cover!
Focus on each person you encounter when networking (and even when you are not officially “networking.” You never know what you might learn and how it will propel you toward your goals!
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photo by whatdavesees