Think back over the last 10 networking events you’ve attended. You probably collected between 8-15 cards at each event. So, let’s average it at 12 cards.
Now let’s assume each event was 3 hours long. That’s 30 hours of your time at the event… not including the half-hour to get there and another to come back, so let’s add another 10 hours to the mix: 40 hours time for the whole process. Now, of the time you were actually at the event, with an average of 12 cards per event, you spent about 15 minutes with each of those people, which involved you telling them what you do and them telling you what they do.
OK, so you met 120 new people. Not bad. Now here’s the big question: How many of those people would you consider to be your friends now? How many of them do you trust? How many of them trust you? How many would go out of their way to help you with a problem or to achieve a goal even if they weren’t going to get any business out of it? How many of them would you do the same for?
Now OK, you might say… “If we’re talking about the last 10 events I’ve attended, obviously I haven’t known those people that long, so I haven’t had a chance to form those kind of bonds with them.” OK, fine. How about the 10 events before that, or the 10 before that even. Hell, go back a few years if you want. I’d wager that the number of people you met while “networking” that fit the relationship model I am describing is not very much to speak of.
And I think you’d find that, by and large, this same story repeats over and over again with each of the people who took your cards at those events, with few exceptions. The word “networking” has become another euphemism for “sales” or “prospecting”. The real spirit of networking is still out there, but it’s being held up on the backs of a diligent few.
Networking is an excellent business activity if done right, but in order to do it right, you have to first understand what it is and what it is not. So let’s give it a simple, basic definition that anyone can understand:
Real networking is about creating business friendships.
Give me two people: One who has managed to build a list of 2000 business acquaintances, and has them all on their email newsletter list, and another person who has 100 real business friendships, and I would bet on the success of that second person every time.
A real friendship-focused business network is a like a grid of high-voltage electrical lines, extending out from you, giving you the ability to create effects in distant places, and granting you rapid access to resources and assistance you would not normally have on your own. An acquaintance-driven “network” is about as useful as a bunch of kids hooking up a series of strings and tin cans to talk to each other… your influence goes about as far the sound of your voice.
Real networking takes work, it takes patience, it takes looking at the long-game (not immediate benefit) and it takes actually giving a damn about the connections you make and developing them into more than just a number of superficial acquaintances.
So pick out a few people you’ve met recently, some people you found it easy to speak and socialize with, and just ask yourself “What actions would I need to take to start developing real business friendships with these people?”
Keep that mindset up, and act accordingly, and just like that you will start yourself on the road to greater success in networking.