There is a huge difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. Sometimes that chasm is so wide that it may not be bridged or crossed even with the greatest amount of energy and effort.
I'm talking about the promises and good words exchanged during events where people work the room. Of course, there are at least two versions to every story, but please will you explain:
- the person who comes up to you and proceeds to tell you they are experts at everything, especially the things you do -- how is this game of one-upping you going to aid connection?
- the type who spends exactly two minutes with you, enough to extract a business card, then proceeds to sign you up for their email and newsletter from there on -- why would you ever consider a service that was pushed on you?
- the business guru who is so above everyone else in the room that it's clear they are doing you a favor just by stopping being important for the two seconds it takes them to know you cannot get them the (money, connections, fame) they are seeking -- didn't they already have all of that?
This is in person spamming -- a physical waste of time for everyone. I'm thinking that just like we've learned to deal with the spam in our inbox and by phone, we are learning to tune out this approach.
Alas, this is to the detriment of many professional associations events where we used to go to learn something and meet like minded people.
Have we really gone so far down the road of entitlement and bottom line-thinking with everything we do that we have completely foregone the old art of staying in conversations long enough to find a point of connection?
Or is it perhaps the application of formulaic advice dispensed on networking that is creating this sort of massive misunderstanding? Remember your story, do not apply anything blindly -- the successful people you'd like to hang out with are also extremely nice and quite down to earth.
That is because they found what works for them, their story, and that adds tremendous value.
By all means mingle, get out of your usual circle, meet new people. And when you do that, be prepared to listen. Believe it or not there is a time and place for everything, even your own agenda. If you feel you do not have the time, what you're missing is a vital ingredient to forging connections -- an attitude of giving.
Be secure and confident enough to offer value first and never worry about what you get back. This bears repeating at least once -- never worry about what you get back. I can give you dozens of examples of professionals who behave this way and get plenty of referral business. No one forgets someone who is present in the conversation with them.
Keep your promises. If you know you will forget, write the promise in the back of the person's business card. It's a simple thing to do that can really send a powerful message -- you care. Be grateful that someone would rely on your advice and follow up, and be grateful of the time they would spend with you.
How many thank you cards have you sent out this week, month, year? If you cannot remember when the last time was, it's time to go buy some.
A well written thank you card always makes a strong impression. Often I send a book along, not just any book -- a book that I think the recipient will enjoy, learn something from, find useful in their line of work.
Don't think only work-related though. Sometimes people need a lift -- music, poetry, something inspirational. Has someone just started a new job? Is someone under a certain degree of stress in their lives? These are all things to consider -- and they will highlight your emotional intelligence.
Whenever you meet other professionals who might benefit from connecting with people in your network, offer to make introductions.
Tell them (both of them) why, what each can learn, benefit from meeting the other. And while you're at it, when was the last time you told the people you are connected with why you like them, what makes them special? Think about it, wouldn't you like to know yourself what people value in you?