Working for many years in professional services I have attended more networking events than I would care to count. Conferences, client events, forums; I’ve endured more than my fair share of terrible handshakes, lukewarm prawn blinis and stilted conversations.
Most of us don’t relish the thought of exchanging pleasantries with strangers in the interests of business development, and many people really don’t manage to work the room with any purpose or tangible outcomes.
The best networker I ever met was someone I used to bump into at industry get togethers. We hadn’t directly worked together (he was a training consultant too) but we had a few contacts in common. He made such an impact at these events that I analysed what it was that he did so that I could pass it on to others in my training. Here’s what I noticed about him.
- He didn’t let his awkwardness get in the way of saying hello to people. He wasn’t the most confident person in the room but he knew that most people there had come to meet others so he introduced himself to anyone on their own and would confide in them that events like this didn’t come easy to him either but there was strength in numbers!
- His generosity of spirit was endearing and he would encourage his newly found contacts to step into the breach with him and meet new people together.
- He seemed to really enjoy finding out about people. Whether it was a tactic or not his curiosity about my job and career history was compelling, and I felt, genuine.
- A lot of the questions people ask at these events are the same such as “where do you work?” and “what do you do?” He asked thought-provoking, interesting questions, more like “why do you do the job you do?” and “tell me something about yourself that will surprise me”.
- He was passionate about his own work. If the conversation turned to what he did, his enthusiasm was infectious and made me want to experience whatever it was he was doing at work!
- He did not ever try to sell anything. He may have talked about his job but he at no point tried to steer conversations around to what he might be able to do for me. He understood that his purpose was making connections, not selling.
- He was altruistic. He was more than happy to introduce people to each other if it was of benefit to them. He would put people in contact with others he had met in the same industry. He didn’t differentiate between those people that might be useful to him one day and others that were unlikely clients.
In summary he put the effort in with other people without putting his own needs first. He was authentic and memorable for all the right reasons. Ultimately, he is someone I would be very happy to introduce to others and if I ever meet someone who is looking for his specific expertise I have no hesitation in recommending him.