Networking is part of business life. For many entrepreneurs, myself included, networking is a necessary evil- emphasis on evil
Conference Networking the Old Way
You know the drill. You fly in the night before. Stand in the long registration line the next morning where you probably meet the person standing in front and behind you. (Some of us would call it here- networking accomplished)
You stroll into the ballroom set up in rows and rows of tables wondering, where can I sit where I can see but not be disturbed. Oddly, the front of the place seems fairly empty. You grab a seat towards the back, near the end of the row, so you can make a quick escape. Nobody makes eye contact, so busy with their phones, iPads and laptops.
You do the same. You eat lunch with a guy you met last time and meet the person sitting next to you. You have cards, swag and whatnot but don’t really recall connecting with anyone.
You go home determined to send follow up emails to those four people, but that fails fast as you are swept back into your regular work load. What was the point of going?
Networking the NEW Way
Did you know that a recent survey of association member revealed that even in this high tech age, people still like to meet to learn? Attendees prefer in-person learning. That tells me we still like to connect but have trouble doing it.
Face it networking is awkward, whether it’s at a national conference like #Lawyernomics or your local BNI group like City Center. You can either resist that or do something to make it bearable. You know what I vote for.
Use your EQ to have a better networking experience
Networking isn’t something that happens TO you. You have a lot of control over the interaction, even if you might not think so. Let me share 3 EQ that can help you enjoy, yes enjoy, networking.
1. SELF AWARENESS
How do you act at networking- shy, reserved, boisterous, curious & interested? Take a look at how you act and whether those actions meet your end goals. What are your goals, anyway?
As a young lawye,r my goal was collecting business cards. I’d set a goal- ten cards- and feel pretty satisfied if I came home with that number. Did it grow my business? Sometimes.
Now, as a wiser consultant, my networking goal is to meet people who I find interesting and enjoy talking to. My number is a modest 3. I make fewer connections but there is a real spark that I’m eager to fan into a relationship. These are people I will reconnect with and keep in my network. The return might not show up for a while but there is almost always a positive return.
What would happen if you shifted your networking goal from getting business to having enlightening conversations?
2. SELF MANAGEMENT
Do you get nervous meeting strangers? I do, too, I wonder what they think of me. It’s only natural, as humans we crave being liked (loved). Use your self-management skills to handle that. How? Remove the obstacles.
Roger Dooley, one of my favorite brain scientists, suggests that sharing one thing in common with someone else makes them more likely to like or trust you. You can remove the barrier of being strangers by making friends online before you get to the event.
Lawyernomics made that incredibly easy by asking attendees to download and use the LN app before the conference. I LOVED it.
the app eliminates the need for a dumb, heavy conference directory you have to drag around. Now, the schedule, event feed and other attendees are in the palm of your hand. Nice!
The app helped me connect from the first moment. I had trouble downloading it so I got the pleasure of meeting Matt Longman, the social media genius at Avvo. We bonded over food. Then, I said hello to Jennifer Brandt and Vanessa Vasquez de Lara, both speakers, via the app. When I met Vanessa and her husband, Julian, at the pool cocktail party later it felt like we were simply continuing the conversation.
Strive to connect with two or three speakers or attendees before leaving home, too. Your conference may not have an app but they probably have a group somewhere you can join to remove those obstacles.
3. GROUP DYNAMICS
Groups take on personalities of their own. Any sports fan will tell you that. It’s true for conferences, too. You want to read the dynamics to discover what’s an acceptable norm. That way you won’t be the sore thumb sticking out.
People with high emotional intelligence take the temperature of a group and the modify their behavior accordingly. Figure out how people are connecting. Are people passing cards like they are playing Go Fish? Are they texting to share contact info? Whatever they are doing, start doing it too. Feeling like you belong makes you feel more comfortable, which in turn, leads to you being more open to meeting people. Isn’t that what conferences are for?
PS. Just a quick shout out that today is the last day that Outsourcing Made Easy will be available for free.This is your chance to get a very actionable, informative course as a gift. Over 1000 students in the first weeks can’t be wrong. http://bit.ly/outsourcecourse