When you think of networking, what do you think of? For me, it used to be a feeling of dread and an evening of discomfort in a hotel ballroom full of strangers.
Fun, eh? When I wasn't having fun, I wasn't being effective, either. Who wants to buy some dread? Sign me up! Pick me! Pick me!
In the last 3 years, I've experimented with a lot of different approaches and I've learned a few things doing so. I've learned that I have certain places I enjoy networking--i.e. small groups, one-on-one conversations, and public speaking. Places that seem to be torture, also, duh, don't produce results. I've learned to accept my style and be creative with how I network, rather than doing what I think I "should" be doing. I've learned to put myself in places where I'm doing the work I do and not trying to explain the work I do.
I reached out to a previous client of mine, Kristen Gallagher of Edify [who is a rock star with on-boarding programs for rapidly growing tech companies] so we could connect during my upcoming trip to Portland, Oregon. She suggested I have some "office hours" and she sent a great invitation with a testimonial (Slow Bar on October 3, 4-6 PM!) I'm looking forward to the event and meeting people in a relaxed and personal setting, and I've already had a phone call and several confirmed attendees! It might end up being Speed Coaching at Slow Bar -- but it's a great idea and an experiment, and has me do what I do best: not just drinking an Old Fashioned, but meeting people, hearing about them and hearing what business concerns they have. Fun? Check. Effective for me? Check.
Thank you, Kristen, for being such a great advocate for me.
It's important to always network -- not just when you need something. It works way better to network to develop relationships that are mutually beneficial. It's important to give and receive in networking -- give a referral, a testimonial, send a relevant article to someone to let them know you're thinking about them, or provide value. Build relationship first, and don't be attached to a result.
Find the style of networking that works for you--and engage it, be consistent, have fun and be creative.
I thought this article on tips for better conversations in the NYT last week was relevant to networking [and all relationships]. Listen and be curious about others. Works every time!
Come see me and Kristen at Slow Bar in Portland, Oregon, October 3 from 4-6 PM or schedule your own office hours with me here: https://calendly.com/kerrywalls.