Networking is dead, long live networking!

There was an article in Fast Company this week by Bernard Roth about how to stop networking. Roth argues that we should stop the traditional sense of networking and instead focus on creating real relationships as the more effective approach. This is quite different from what many of us have been taught about professional and business development, especially when it comes to bulk networking.

Bulk networking by my definition is the need to meet as many contacts as possible in the shortest amount of time required and you measure yourself based on the number of business cards you have handed out. This is less likely to result in meaningful engagement.

Here at OM ThreeSixty, we still use the term networking, but it’s in the context of seeking to build long-term relationships with real people, contacts, prospective customers or investors, referrers and affiliates, as well as making friends along the way. Here are five valuable tips to keep in mind in your networking.

1.Quality over quantity

It’s not a numbers game – it’s not about how many people you meet or how many business cards you hand out. It’s about the quality connections and real relationships.

2.Give, earn or learn – don’t take

Never enter into a networking conversation looking for what you can get out of it. It’s a hollow interaction that is disingenuous at its core. Instead, be interested about the other person’s life and business and ask questions to understand if you can add value. All interactions should be about how you can help the other, building credibility and learning something. The right attitude can produce great results because your heart is in the right place.

3.Be genuine

There is nothing worse than a forced or rehearsed conversation. Ensure your interactions are real, that you are not asking a base list of scripted questions, that your respond with cookie cutter comments.

4.Be inclusive

I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where you feel like you are the only person in the room who is not talking to someone. Keep an eye out for that person standing alone. Walk up and introduce yourself, or pull them into a group conversation.

5.Don’t judge a book by its cover

That lone person may be the very person you need to speak to. However if decided that based on the demographic information that you perceived that you will have nothing in common, you have just lost that opportunity. One of the worst mistakes we make is assuming we know what someone has to offer without really understanding. The sixth habit in Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people is to seek first to understand before being understood. It’s a great rule to live by.
Next time you go to a networking event, remember that there is a wealth of knowledge that you can both learn from and give.