We hear a lot about networking, getting out there, and creating the “right” content for exposure. But a lot of the networking experiences I’ve had have been fruitless at best and unpleasant at worst. Why is that? Because those interactions were not focused on building real connections.
The Typical Networking Experience
You arrive at a networking event, armed with your business cards, maybe some brochures, and your best smile. Maybe you’ve even set a goal for how many business cards you want to get during the event. You scan the room and find someone to approach. Determined to make this a meaningful interaction, you stick out your hand, offer your winning smile, and introduce yourself. Your chosen mark reciprocates and launches into their elevator pitch. You have no need for their services. It’s your turn to give your elevator pitch. They have no need for your services either. You smile politely at each other, thank each other for the intro, and move onto the next target.
Sound familiar? If it doesn’t, please share your secrets with all of us down below.
If it does, you’re not alone. Somewhere along the way, we collectively moved towards a model for networking that happens at a very superficial and short-term-focused level. In the work I do, that has never made me a solid connection with someone.
Why is it important to build real connections?
I’m not saying anything new when I remind you that we’d all prefer to do business with people we know, like, and trust. From where you buy your morning coffee to the roofer to a team development consultant, the experience with the person and company matters. Networking events and other forms of hustle might give you exposure to some of the people you’d like to connect with further. But you’re likely going to have to be willing to put in the work to deepen the conversation.
My dirty little secret
I dislike playing the social media game. So, I don’t. I’ve built a successful business over time by building meaningful connections. Nurturing relationships involves asking questions and listening rather than doing most of the talking. It means being genuinely curious about what’s going on with someone else. Yep, it takes more work. Indeed, it takes more time. But the payoff? Building real connections that lead to great things over time.