MUST DO NETWORKING
When you start out as an entrepreneur and you get caught up in all the ‘must do’ things like blogging, creating a list, networking, writing a book…it may be daunting; it may be exciting. Whichever way it is/was for you, it’s pretty likely that you attended more than one networking event in your time.
RULES OF THE GAME
There are Rules of the Game in networking.
It’s about meeting people, creating a good impression, and getting their contact details (so that you can build your list of potential recipients of your newsletter, blog, book, notices, etc.).
It’s about coming across as confident, interested and interesting; not showing your fear, your neediness, your loneliness and doubts.
It’s about knowing how to kick off with small talk, vs. jumping in and giving your 30sec elevator speech (yes, they still do that).
It’s about pretending that you’re not there in the hopes of making the coolest business contact that will set you up for life, but rather that you just love hanging out at events like that, looking for ways to be helpful to others.
It’s about knowing when the conversation is over and moving on.
You were probably told to hand out your business cards to as many people as you can, and to collect as many as you can. I was. And did.
I had a system: When I got home I’d scribble notes on as many of the business cards as I could – something noteworthy about the person., to jog my memory in days/weeks/months to come. Then, the morning after the event I would email every single person whose business card I’d collected; reminding them of how we met, and making some personal little reference to remind them of me.
I took it a step further: I had a Cardex box with markers for weeks of the month (1,2,3,4) and months of the year, by name. The business card of every person I’d emailed would be noted with the date of the email, and then placed somewhere in that Cardex box, aimed at some day in the future, when I would follow up. Not too soon; not too late.
Fast forward to this day.
I moved into a new house a week ago. I’m unpacking things and trying to find space for everything. I came across a box of business cards, and my Cardex box, inside another box. In an idle moment, as I was wondering where to put this lot, I started sorting those cards:
- One pile for the cards of people I don’t remember, nor do I remember which networking event we might have met at.
- Another pile for people that I did recall, or even had contact with.
Both piles contained some beautifully designed cards, full of creative art work, carefully selected fonts, and filled with dreams and hopes. I felt dreadful that I’d failed the folks in the first pile: They’d entrusted me with their cards and I’d done nothing. Because yes, my beautiful system lasted only as long as it took me to land my first corporate training gig, and then it was going all out to make a success of THAT. By the time the training and coaching had finished, the business card project had somehow shifted to the back of the closet, never to be touched again, until now.
The second pile is now on my desk, next to the stapler and my own lovely desktop card holder, waiting for me to take action, which will happen tomorrow.
The first pile of discarded business cards fell victim to two compelling things in my life:
- Seriously reducing clutter; and
- Building a fire in my new (old) wood stove to fight off the first chills of the Canadian Fall.
My apologies to those folk who never heard from me after we’d networked, whose cards have now gone up in flames. (But then, I never heard from you either, so why did we do it, and what did you do with my beautiful Zebra logo’d business card, full of dreams and hopes?)
This wouldn’t be a worthy blog if there weren’t at least one lesson in it. There are several.
The lessons are:
- Don’t entrust your hopes and dreams to unreliable strangers.
- If you develop a system for building your business, it’s like any other creative work: 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. (Might I not by now have built up an amazing list of contacts compelling me to employ a social media manager to manage my relationships with everyone?)
- The act of de-cluttering creates focus: Don’t just toss out – review/consider/ choose.
- Blogging topics arise in the strangest places.
- If you shortly receive an email from me with a link to this blog, then you’ll know that your card was in the second pile. If you would like to keep hearing from me, by all means accept me on your white list in your email client. If you don’t, please unsubscribe. More than that, I’d love to hear back from you!
And a last thought
Networking and building relationships have served me well in my business, despite the failed Cardex scheme.
In particular, I’ve met any number of women from all walks of life at the Centre for Women in Business at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Water treatment specialists, a funeral celebrant, the owner of a consignment fashion store, a best-selling author, a lawyer, accountants, a fast food franchisee, the head of a company that waterproofs basements, coaches, professors. I’ve referred business to some of them, and I’ve done some project work with some of them too. Through my networking in my professional association, International Coach Federation, Atlantic, I’ve had and given referrals and found like-minded colleagues to collaborate with.
I’ve had great responses to surveys I’ve conducted to my ‘list’ that have given me guidance on new business ventures. The relatively recent live LinkedIn event at the Halifax public library was an interesting experience. It was an opportunity to meet a very diverse grouping of people, from all age groups, with varying technological capabilities and sometimes starkly different world views. Something may come of that yet.
More than all of that, good friendships have evolved. ‘Let’s go for a coffee’ is a well-worn euphemism for ‘let’s get together because I enjoy your company.’