I feel like the networking events I go to are superficial. People swap business cards and never hear from one another. What am I missing? How can I get past the superficial networking and make valuable connections? – Melissa in Davenport, Iowa
When you hold a preconceived notion about a situation, it’s far more likely to be fulfilled. You’ve primed the pump, so to speak. When you view networking events as superficial, you have created a frame of negativity. What truly matters is how you approach the opportunity. To get the most out of networking events, your attitude should be a combination of genuine curiosity and the desire to be of service.
What is Networking?
Dictionary.com provides this meaning for networking: “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” Sharing information is closely aligned with curiosity and wanting to learn about other people, their activities, best practices, and what’s new in the industry. My take on being of service is to help others with advice, suggestions, and referrals.
Networking Events to Attend
Networking events are most often based on an anchor activity, such a guest speaker, a topic forum, a seminar, and so forth. The easiest way to ensure a positive mindset is to exercise your power of choice. In other words, choose your events wisely. Does the event speak to your interests, passions, or values? Something you’ve heard of, but don’t know anything about the subject? A speaker who intrigues you? An industry trend, shift, or innovation you need to learn about?
When you select events that spark your inner explorer, you’ve created a frame of curiosity. Set your expectations to three goals for the affair. The base aspirations I continually utilize are to learn something new or gain a deeper understanding on a subject, to make a new contact or re-connect with someone, and finally to provide one piece of advice or insight that can help another person out. I’ve set the tone and am excited to attend.
Making a Connection
It’s effortless to meet people and get them talking, especially when you come prepared with unique ice-breakers. My favorite is, “If you could be doing anything else right now, what would it be and whom would you be with?” This is great way to learn something about the other person. Find commonalities, a gleam of interest, and maybe an area of passion. And of course, have your 60-second pitch ready when you get asked who you are and what you do. Your answer should be authentic and always enthusiastic, because enthusiasm is contagious. Pivot the conversation back to them to establish rapport; you are laying the groundwork for a promising relationship.
After the Networking Event
After the event, reach out, and soon! Connect on LinkedIn, reminding your new contact when and where you met, and perhaps including a snippet of the conversation or topic. Thank them for speaking with you. Express your gratitude and pleasure in meeting. If you had offered to provide a referral or information, include it in your message or in an email. When fresh opportunities arise, check in and share information. Perhaps meet for coffee or a meal to further your budding relationship.
Networking can be deeply satisfying when you enter the doors with a positive and benevolent mindset. It’s an adventure to learn, re-connect, and begin a new bond. Reset your reasons for why you want to participate. When your rationale is grounded in genuine curiosity and the desire to be of service, the networking events you choose to attend will be anything but superficial.
Playlist: “Networking Your Way to the Top”
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.