Have you ever attended a networking event, excited at the prospect of meeting new and interesting people……and left the event with a headache and a hand full of brochures for exotic Acai Berry drinks and other useless marketing junk? Did you feel like you just wasted your time?
You probably did.
Why are most formal networking events a waste of time? There's a few reasons, but lets start with the biggest reason.
What is a referral? Simple put, a referral is when you recommend someone or something to others. Every time you make a referral to someone, you're transferring the trust you've built with that individual to the person or business you are making the referral to. In other words, you're putting a little piece of your reputation on the line….not something to be taken lightly.
If someone asked you to recommend a good insurance broker to them, would you recommend the guy you met last week at a networking event with whom you spent a total of 5 minutes talking to…..or would you recommend your buddy from college who you've known most of your life and handles your insurance as well as most of your friends?
In order to make a referral, you need to know that you can trust (and like) that person or service. How can you build that sort of relationship with a person who is blasting their business cards around the room like they have a shotgun in their hands?
Shallow, mass networking will get you nowhere. Many of the people who attend these events are there for a one sided proposition…..to promote their product or service. They will feign interest in hearing about what you do, and even ask for your business cards so they can actively refer you (or so they say). Rarely will you ever get a referral from these sources. I've gotten to the point where I won't hand out my business card until I get to know the person, and until I'm pretty sure they aren't going to start spamming me with junk newsletters, emails or try to setup an appointment with me to go over my financial roadmap with them. All junk.
Can you get value out of networking events? Yes you can, if you take a different approach. Next time you attend a networking event, don't go with the mindset of trying to introduce yourself to everyone and getting your business cards into as many hands as possible. Out of the whole group, look for the 1 or 2 people that you would think you would like on a personal level and make a point of introducing yourself to them. I said introduce yourself, not your business. It all starts on a personal level….you have to build a personal relationship before you can build a business relationship. Ignore the rest of the crowd, if you try and meet everyone, you'll meet no one.
Who do I look for when i'm at an event?
- People that like to smile
- People who seem interested in me and don't immediately go into their elevator pitch upon introducing themselves
- People who don't bring up what they do unless I ask them
- People who can talk about things other than their business
What do I do when I've found someone I like?
- I try and get to know them on a personal level
- I ask about their business
- I try and do something for them long before I expect them to do something for me.
- I ask them to lunch, not for a sales pitch, but to have lunch
As you can see, i'm not a big fan of networking events created for the sole purpose of networking. I do think you can find some great people at events like these, you just need to be selfish in who you spend your time. And when you do find the right person, be very generous in bringing value to them and their business in the form of referrals and resources. That's networking.
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