How enjoyable do you find networking events? Whether you are on your way to a leadership breakfast, community organization meeting or an economic forum, you may find yourself thinking of somewhere you’d rather be.
You might attend events out of a sense of obligation, to support a co-worker or client, make useful business connections, or just to add a little volume to the buzz the organizers are trying to create. But what should you get out of it?
For more lasting returns, shift gears from it being about you and instead view it as an opportunity to begin to genuinely get to know someone. I suggest coming out of each networking event with at least one new relationship because all new relationships are “strategic” to your business.
Take your time and get to know one person. By know I mean really know someone, which begins with active listening. Find out some things that will help you understand your new colleague. For example, why did they choose to follow the path they did? What challenges did they face and overcome? How do they manage to balance their career with their personal life?
Showing interest in a person is enriching in many ways. People greatly appreciate someone who takes the time to do so. By getting to genuinely know someone, you also begin to build relationships that can be fruitful. Aside from actually recognizing one another at a future event, you’ve got a new asset that’s more than a LinkedIn contact. Having another person to call when you face a future business or personal challenge can be a difference-maker. It is also helpful to know another who will speak highly of you when a relevant business situation presents itself. These sparks can lead to significant business.
Here are some tips for building relationships at your next event:
- Make yourself uncomfortable. Start the process with someone you normally wouldn’t profile as a business lead. Stay away from co-workers and people you see on a regular basis.
- Keep the conversation focused on your new colleague. Learn from others’ experiences. You will be remembered more for your interest in them than any of your business capabilities.
- Demonstrate enough interest to keep your new relationship in mind as you go about your business. Chances are they will do the same.
- Offer something to assist your new colleague. This will serve to make the relationship last.
Bring a relationship-building mindset to every event. Learn from someone you may not otherwise have met, and build a relationship that strengthens your business and personal life. You might begin to view networking events as the business-building opportunity they were intended to be.
Anthony J. Margida, Ph.D., CEO of TechGrit AMX2 LLC, is an accomplished entrepreneurial ecosystem architect specializing in tech startup programing, business accelerator and hub design, equity investment, organization sustainability, and funding.