Recall that there are four steps to building a real relationship. The process is the same whether you are networking, dating, or meeting people on the playground at the age of 5.
Meeting people and making a connection is the easy part. You do this all the time, every day. On the train, in the office, at networking events, etc. But all those great connections will come to nothing unless you give them a future.
Consider this scenario:
You met Bob at a networking event. The two of you talked for 10 minutes about perfecting your golf swing and Ethiopian food. The night ended. You said goodbye and went home not knowing how to contact him. Or – potentially even worse – you got his card, but didn’t create any context for follow up. The evening ended and Bob is not going to become a member of your network.
The relationship failed to launch because you didn’t give the connection a future.
Part of successful networking means staying in the present moment and making the most of it, it means listening to others, it means improvising and being yourself.
So when you are meeting people at networking events, Career Protocol mandates that you leave your personal agenda at home. If you and a new connection are doing to do business together, you will sort that out at your next meeting or even after that.
Pause and consider if this is news to you.
In the past did you think that the purpose of a networking event was to impress people? Or to deliver your elevator pitch as many times as possible and hope that one of them sticks? Or to be sure to let people know what you have to offer? Or worse, to figure out what the other people in the room have to offer you?
It’s human to think this way, but a networking event is not an Egyptian bazaar where everyone is hocking their wares, and you need to stop treating it that way.
Because all relationships – personal or professional – begin in the same way. With genuine human connection. Sometimes when we meet people for networking purposes, we ignore the importance of connecting with the human being, and somehow think it is ok to connect on a transactional basis.
But that approach doesn’t lead anywhere good. Worst of all, doesn’t it just feel douchey to network like this? Trying to figure out what people can offer you and then trying to sell yourself to them?
If you want to take the transaction out of networking and get people to like you, you have to leave your agenda at home.
The time to work your agenda is in a second or third conversation with someone.
So take the emphasis off your professional successes and the value you have to offer. Take your attention off the person’s title, company, or position. And just be yourself.
Try our handy dandy personal introduction framework for an easy way to do that.
Let’s go back to our example of meeting Bob. You followed Career Protocol, left your agenda at home, and really connected with him.
Still, the greatest connection in the world will be for naught if it doesn’t survive beyond the first contact. And it won’t survive beyond the first contact if you don’t give the relationship a future.
Sidebar: There is a whole tragicomic world of Missed Connection personal ads borne out of this problem. Instead of trolling Craigslist for your missed professional contact, try this Career Protocol Strategy to turn any chance meeting into a friend.
To create a future, you only need 2 things:
- Their contact information.
- Permission to contact them about something specific.
The first one is easy!
- Can I have your business card?
- Would it be alright if I find you on LinkedIn?
- Let me know your email.
But don’t stop there!!!!!
You want to make sure your new connection knows what to expect – when roughly you will follow up and about what. Consider…
Asking for something. Keep it small and simple and relevant to what you discussed.
- I am going to Vietnam next month and I’d love to hear your top picks for Hanoi.
- I will follow up about that article you told me about. I’d love to read it.
- I would love to pick your brain for 20 minutes about YOUR COMPANY’s culture.
- I’m going to RESTAURANT WE DISCUSSED next week and I’d love for you to connect me with the maître‘d you know.
Offer something. Again, keep it simple and relevant to what you discussed.
- I will email you and forward that article I was talking about.
- I have compiled my top 10 travel tips for Tanzania, so I will shoot them to you in an email next week.
- I would love to connect you with my friend who is starting a new business. I think you two would have a lot to discuss.
Create a joint venture. Ask to continue the conversation that’s already begun.
- I would love to continue our conversation about pay for performance. I think we have a lot to learn from each other.
- Let’s have lunch next week and we can compare notes on sushi restaurants in town.
As with all things, don’t force it. Worst case scenario, if you can’t think of a better ask, offer, or joint venture, then just keep the door open: “I would really love to stay in touch. Would you mind if I reach out to you in the next few weeks?”
And then follow up in whatever way seems natural at the time. Be sure to follow through!!! Then you know how to take it from there.