Networking Local; How Good Are We At It?
A few weeks ago I went to an interesting event. It was titled 10 Do’s & Don’ts: Networking Seminar with Michelle Kingman & Kelvin Ringold. I had met Michelle once before, at a blog networking event, whereas I know Kelvin pretty well (after 17 years I better lol).I have to admit that I don’t go to a lot of these types of things, and I’m not sure why. After all, I’m in business for myself, so one would think I’d avail myself of every opportunity to meet others that I might possibly be able to do business with some day. Truthfully though, out of all the years I’ve gone to local networking events, I’ve only ever worked with one person; oh well…
However, that’s not really what networking is supposed to be about. The idea of networking is twofold… at least if you ask me.
One, it’s to get people to know who you are because you never know if they’ll know someone who might be able to use what you offer.
Two, it’s to get practice in how to properly communicate with others in a business setting. I’ve seen so many people fail on that last one that I could teach a class on bad networking. But good networking… maybe, but I’m glad there are other people to do it instead.
What was interesting about this presentation is that both people knew their stuff, but came at the presentation in a much different way.
For instance, Michelle has a system she follows that helps her networking in a more business like manner. She calls the system “FORM“, which stands for family, occupation, recreation and message. She doesn’t do it in this order for every single person she meets but will try to use all of them to establish a potential relationship down the line.
Being a personal trainer, the individual touch works perfectly because many of us have thought about using trainers to help us with our health goals. So, if we’re going to trust someone to work with us physically like that it pays to get to know them better and have them know you and be comfortable with you as well.Kelvin is more of a serial greeter. He’s never met a stranger; I think he’d agree with that statement. Being naturally gregarious, he can put people at ease with the first few words that come out of his mouth at a networking event and engage people on almost any topic they want to talk about.
So he doesn’t follow a system, per se, but when he eventually moves on to others they have his card, will remember him and what he does, and in essence he’s fulfilled the reason for networking to begin with, which is spreading positivity via speaking and one on one coaching.
I have to admit that I think I’m a bad networker, though some folks think I’m not. I’m good in small groups because they’re usually geared towards something I’m really interested in, like the blogging meetups I’ve gone to locally. Being a big time blogger and knowing it’s something I’m good at makes it really easy to talk about with anyone, even if those folks are blogging all that much.
When it comes to general networking events though… well, if I don’t know anyone I’m the guy standing alongside the wall or in the corner or possibly by the food (if there are cookies lol), taking my time and canvassing the crowd to see if there’s someone I wouldn’t mind breaking one of the two rules I grew up with, those being “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t interrupt people when they’re talking”. If my mind doesn’t see my being able to break through either of those… well, I’ve been known to leave a networking event within 10-15 minutes if I’m uncomfortable, whether I’ve paid or not.
That seems like a strange contradiction from someone who’s also a professional speaker, and has stood in front of 200+ people at a time talking about a subject that others might never have thought of, or as someone who used to perform at weddings, almost always solo, and never had any anxiety at all. Yet, that’s how it is with me, and I’m betting that’s how it is with a lot of people who are uncomfortable with networking events.
That’s probably why I felt it was important to go to this event. Well, that and I didn’t have to drive since I rode with Kelvin. 🙂 However, I could have always said no and just stayed home, but I’m glad I didn’t. Any time you can get good information that you can afford (and this was a free event) and you don’t take up the opportunity to get it, you only hurt yourself. In this case, it was put on by two very qualified people, and it was a pleasure to be there.