Let’s face it, few people really like networking – not the face to face kind, anyway. And we don’t like serial networkers either – people who go glad-handing around every social occasion seemingly on the hunt for personal gain, effervescing with chumminess and peering constantly over the shoulder of their current conversationalist to find more interesting, potentially profitable fare.
In fact, it’s so antithetical to our collective mentality, I was going to call my speed networking book “How to network without being a complete wanker”. Oddly, the publisher wasn’t over keen – but it goes to the heart of the issue: we just don’t like doing it and we don’t tend to like people who we think do it professionally.
No, networking has a bad rep.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are three fast ways to make networking – and if you don’t like calling it that, call it ‘making friends’ – a pleasure.
- I haven’t been in touch for ages; what will I say?
You don’t have to say anything earth-shattering or deep and meaningful. You just get in touch again (phone, FB, LinkedIn, however) and suggest it’s been far too long and shouldn’t we have a little catch up over a cup of coffee? When you meet, you listen. Occasionally you interject with “That sounds interesting – tell me more”. Then you keep listening. It should be fun. And it’s interesting when you ask. And you should do about a third of the talking – no more (otherwise you’ll be seen as a self-obsessed bore). By the time you part, the conversation will have created its own momentum and there is bound to be a follow up action. Just make sure you follow up. Following up shows interest, and people who show interest are perceived to care. If you care about others, they will care right back about you.
- Only offer up help if you sincerely believe you can help.
Don’t be one of those ghastly people who only ever gets in touch when they want something. We all know one, don’t we? Pretty soon after doing this a couple of times, you stop answering their calls. In addition to being known as caring, you will be known as straight and unselfish. Be straight and unselfish and nice people (people worth knowing) will be honest and giving back.
- When you’re next at a face to face ‘do’ – a trade event, a social, a conference, even a date – think about what questions you can ask the people you meet.
Yes, you will need a short, bite sized and compelling introduction for yourself, but it is much better to be fascinated than fascinating, and there is no quicker way to signal interest than to ask interesting questions. If you are fascinated with this person, they will remember you kindly. And if you are positive, friendly, playful, kind, loyal and always pleased to see them, they will love being with you and want to be with you more – after all, a person walking down a street with a big broad grin on her face is 100 times more approachable and attractive than someone who looks scowling and dour.
In a nutshell, the best advice I have ever been given in business – or in life – is to “be the person your dog thinks you are”. A dog is ALWAYS delighted to see you. Because to a dog, you are fascinating, fun and fabulous. And dogs are the best networkers on the planet. They make friends in seconds. They don’t overcomplicate things – keep it simple and you will double your network within a year.
Image © Dirk Freder