The key to successful networking is…

In general, I like networking. But there is the odd occasion when it’s not something I look forward to doing.

Networking sometimes feels forced and unnatural, particularly when people pounce on you to see if they can extract something of value, but then drop you like a hot stone when they have obtained everything they can.Or you’re in a situation where you don’t know anyone and those whom you might want to get to know seem quite content to remain ensconced in their cliques. Some people seem only interested in meeting with those whom they already know; otherwise, they head to their hotel rooms to ‘work’.

Do you want to be known as a ‘networking type’?  Or are you the type to avoid networking situations if possible? Or something else?

Since networking is necessary to create new business opportunities – as well as for career advancement – an aversion to networking shouldn’t mean that you dispense with it altogether. So how can it be made more palatable?

You just have to do one thing: establish a single point of common interest with the person with whom you are speaking and be authentic. Even if you hate networking, I’d encourage you to just try it once and you’ll see what I mean.

As an example, at a recent Detroit event, I had breakfast with a number of attendees who were fans of English soccer. We immediately struck up a conversation that lasted for 20 minutes or so. Following our discussion, those attendees became ‘touchpoints’ for the rest of the event. The connection, begun at breakfast, was effortless because it was natural.

There is almost no greater thrill than successfully making a new connection. As humans, we need to engage. If we didn’t, we’d never get to know anyone outside of our family. Connecting with people – as people, rather than as targets with some specific business intent – can expand your network and take some of the challenges out of the effort.  Even if it’s not something that comes naturally.  And don’t be surprised if you get some business benefits, as well. 

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