Walk into a networking group meeting – you know the sort of event – a breakfast meeting, or maybe just a bit of ‘networking’ at another event. There will be people doing a range of things.
Some will be ‘sharks’ working the room with a view to pushing their business cards on as many as possible, and getting as many people’s cards as they can so they can spam the owners within 24 hours and then repeatedly until they get round to opting out.
Some will be ‘mates’ sticking with their friends, not interested in meeting anyone else and rather rudely ignoring the new people.
Not surprisingly, there will also be some ‘lurkers’ hanging around at the edge, wondering what to do.
And then there are the networkers, greeting new people, moving around too, introducing people in the room and writing on the back of business cards what they promised to do in their follow up. If you meet one of these people they’ll probably get in touch after the meeting with something you told them you need – not with a plug for their website, seminar or blog!
The woman who taught me about networking, Nicole Bachmann, told me that the networkers probably make up 15% of any networking group. The trick is to find them and get to know them. You can learn from watching what they do, and of course they are there to help you too, so whatever you need, they’ll be able to help somehow, at some point, or they will ‘know a man who can’.
Of course if you want to be a good networker, you have to be like them. And it’s easier than you think. Ask them about themselves. Be interested. Find out what they are looking for, and have a think about whether you know anyone who can help them. Remember, a good networker is an advocate for all her hundreds of contacts. She might not be able to help herself, but maybe one of her colleagues can.
It should become apparent here that good networkers tend to seek each other out. Its no fun going into a ‘shark pit’ of a networking meeting, but there may be some gems in there, some you don’t yet know, so I think its worth having a look, especially if you can use social tools online to help you find the right people quickly.
The funny thing is, I find people using exactly the same behaviours on twitter and linkedin. There are the sharks, collecting as many contacts (even on linkedin, those they don’t know at all) that they can and then spamming them with sales messages. There are the ‘mates’ who only want to talk to each other and are offended when someone on twitter sees a tweet and politely joins the conversation. And there are lurkers, reading what other people are saying but not taking part.
The question is, where are the networkers online and how do you find them?
Nicole is teaching how to Network at the Essex Business School next year if you’d like to check her out.
Image by hermanusbackpackers