The idea sounds good. Turbo charge your networking effectiveness by jamming in as many quick conversations in pairs as possible under a drill sergeant with a stopwatch. Collect more business cards in less time! That’s what appeals to a lot of salespeople who sign up for these events.
I remember studying the faces of some speed networkers at one gathering. The dominant ones doing most of the talking would lean over the table, boasting about their companies and products with an intense stare. For them there was blood in the water and prey to be had. The ones listening tended to lean awkwardly back, politely holding attention to the full frontal sales pitch.
What’s wrong with this model? It goes against human nature and business principles. Speed networking is awkwardly prospecting for leads. Real networking is forging lasting relationships and building loyalty that is genuine. Which one actually works?
Even if you’ve scored a good contact or two at a speed networking event, it wasn’t those rushed elevator speeches that made it happen. It happened because you connected as human beings and liked each other. A buyer-seller fit would be a nice bonus. A good relationship can develop only by spending time communicating at deeper and deeper levels. This includes business relationships.
Networking events just for the sake of networking are wonderful when the people attending understand the principles of networking and follow the rules of engagement. There are lots of books and countless articles & blogs on the art of networking. This space is too short to expound further, but I’ll offer a few quick tips for how to approach networking:
- This is not about you and it never has been.
- Get really interested in what others have to say.
- Be an ambassador and a connector, not a salesman.
- Have an awesome value proposition ready for when people ask what you do.
- Show up again and again – enjoy the friendships you make follow through on the referrals you get.