How to Attend a Networking Event and Not Network at All!

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Networking? Talk about a pointless snooze fest. Perhaps sometimes you just don’t feel like flapping your gums at everyone and exchanging business cards with Dirk from Bubba’s Fishhook Supply. But – curses – you’ve already paid for tonight’s event, and if you don’t show up your boss will know.

Fear no longer, friends. Print and take our handy guide with you so the next time your boss asks you to attend a networking event you can skip this reaction: 

and be reassured that there is a way out. As I am at this point quite well-versed in the nuances of such events, here is a strategic plan that, if followed correctly, will allow you to attend the event and successfully network with NO ONE.

Good luck! Please note: This carefully laid out plan is based on a typical 2-hour networking event taking place from 5 to 7 p.m. Beyond this time frame, I’m afraid you’re on your own.

Keep in mind the golden rule of being anti-social is to avoid eye contact. Never, ever look anyone in the eye.

Step 1: Arrival

Arrive at the latest possible moment of what is deemed “fashionably” or “acceptably” late. This threshold for a 2-hour event is 15 minutes. Don’t mess this part up! It will throw off the whole scheme. Time Check: 5:15

Step 2: The Check In

Q: Did you pre-register? A: No, you did NOT (note: DO NOT PRE-REGISTER). You would like to pay by traveler’s checks, please. What? They don’t accept traveler’s checks? Oh, well, in that case, you need to run back to your car to find your credit card. (Note: Your credit card is wedged between two seat cushions and you need to use a wire hanger to fish it out of there.) Return to check-in. While you were gone, ten more people have showed up and are in line in front of you. Rats, it looks like you have to wait on the line again. Time Check: 5:15 – 5:45

Step 3: The Passed Hors D’Oeuvres

What ingredients are in these hors d’oeuvres? You have suddenly developed a severe allergy to kidney beans. Can the waiters guarantee that the food is completely devoid of this evil legume? They say yes – but really, are you going to take their word for it? Demand a tour of the kitchen facilities and insist that the only way you will feel comfortable consuming the food there is if you observe the chef making it for you on all bean-free surfaces, with special bean-proof gloves. Does he not have those gloves? No problem, you have a spare pair in your bag, which is in your trunk. Time Check: 5:45 – 6:10

Step 4: The Perusal of Publicity Materials

Carefully review each and every flyer and form on the Member Services table. Read over them as if they were chapters of War and Peace. Periodically muse things such as “Ahhh”, or “Interesting”, or “Oh, only that much to sponsor?” Meticulously read every single item on that table. If you own spectacles, now is a good time to use them, especially since they’re buried at the bottom of your purse, which requires you to set it on a table to search in a focused, off-putting manner. Grunt and puff a lot. Bonus points for a monocle. Time Check: 6:10 – 6:25 – more than halfway there!!!

Step 5: The Urgent Call

The old stand-by. This is a rookie move, really. It requires almost no previous experience to pull off. All you need is a cell phone and the ability to pace around furiously. Set an alarm on your phone to ring on cue (note: remember to turn the ringer up as loud as it will go! This step is only effective if everyone knows you are receiving an urgent call.) When the alarm goes off, flash an extremely puzzled look, followed by one of utter worry and inconvenience. You must convince the room that you do not want to pick up, but due to its important and urgent nature – alas – you must. Get out a tablet and pen to take notes. Hang up, and dial a follow-up call immediately. Time Check: 6:25 – 6:45

Step 6: The Bathroom Break

Self-Explanatory. Time Check: 6:45 – 6:55

Step 7: Track the Tasty Treats

Follow the guy with the scallops wrapped in bacon. Not only does this kill time, but it’s well worth it. Ride on his coat tails until he either vanishes into the kitchen (which you will then also disappear into and escape through a back door) or gets close enough to the exit for you to veer out unnoticed. Time Check: 6:55 – 7:00

Oh, WOW! Gosh darnit…IT’S TIME TO GO HOME ALREADY? Now get out of there and do what you really want to do, which probably involves a pair of pajamas, a bottle of Port, and a couple of fluffy felines.

Level-Up Your Networking Skills: Be a Connector

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In the business community (especially here at the Chamber), it can sometimes feel like the word “networking” is overplayed at Adele levels.

However tiresome it may be, there’s no question that being a good networker is extremely valuable to your business. But for those who are looking for a challenge, why not try to take your networking skills to the next level?

Be a Connector.

A Connector is, essentially, a Networking MVP. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, describes them as people who are “always able to help — or if they can’t, they know someone who can. You meet them for the first time and in 15 minutes, you’re talking with them like you’re childhood friends. They’re successful, smart and funny, with a likable touch of self-deprecation. And they’re interested in everything.” They have the ability to span different worlds, cultures, and areas of expertise, and are “insatiably curious and willing to step outside their comfort zone.”

Wow. Sound like you?

Yeah, me either. But don’t worry – even if you weren’t born with a superhuman level of charisma, it is entirely possible to train yourself to be one of these legendary contact connoisseurs.

Start by following these guidelines, from Entrepreneur via SecondAct:

1. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone. This may seem obvious, but conquering your fear of the unknown will lay the foundation for future opportunities. “You need to get out and make connections outside of your own world. Being interested in lots of different things by definition allows you to be a connector.”

2. Stop just blindly signing up for things with “Networking” in the title. As in all things in life, seek quality over quantity. “Joining clubs and organizations is a terrific way to find like-minded people, but only go when you have an interest…join organizations that focus on the events and activities you love.” It may help to make your interactions a lot more natural, and result in better quality contacts.

3. Give a little, get a little. “Perhaps one of the most important attributes of a connector is a willingness to help and to reach out even if there is no obvious or immediate payback.” Even though  you may not see anything in it for you, remind yourself that what goes around, comes around.

4. But, on the flip side of that, don’t give away all of your secrets. “Helping others out doesn’t mean you can’t hold some things back..learn to share, but also protect your own interests”. It’s business, after all.

Read the full-text article here.

Conquer your fear of networking!

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Networking is the lifeblood of a thriving business. 

Maybe the importance of it is what makes it such a daunting task. It’s simple, really — to grow your company you need to make genuine connections and build quality relationships.

The Guardian recently came out with an article on how to make the most of networking, whether you’re a business beginner or a seasoned professional. Here are some tips they recommend:

1. Be flexible and open-minded. Let nature take its course. Don’t force anything.

2. Avoid being pushy. Focus on getting to know people, not just selling your product.

3. Give people space. Chances are that the CEO of that Fortune 500 company has been absolutely swamped by those trying to ‘win work.’

4. Offer your help right then and there. If someone talks to you about an issue they are having with their business, offer your advice!

5. Be nice to everyone. Whether you think they are important or not, be nice to them. Avoid assumptions.

Read the rest of The Guardian’s article.

The Golden Rule of Networking

As Jamie Broderick, owner of Network Now and speaker at last night’s Women in Business Alliance event, says:

“Networking is about relationships. It’s important to establish trust. Once you have trust you can build a relationship, and once you have a relationship you can build business.”