“We all have a story & the goal is to connect it to your business because somewhere, somehow, somebody will identify with it.”
— Gloria Cirulli, Managing Director: eWomenNetwork Chapter, Central NJ
“Meetings and networking events are a place where like sheep, we wait for someone to herd us. Real action requires breaking from the herd, so that we create real art, something that matters. We’ve been programmed to stay on the plane, even when there are several good reasons to get off.”
— Seth Godin, Author: Tribes
Networking is the new buzzword in the current startup realm; one where entrepreneurs understand the truth behind these words:
It’s not what you know but who you know.
In an arena where perception is everything, and there’s a fine line between success and failure, collaboration and branding both make all the difference in the world! I thus find myself flummoxed when I attend live events and see people approaching networking all wrong, or opting out entirely!
It’s something I personally experienced again a week ago, when I joined my editor at Maven House Press, Jim Pennypacker, to present and pitch my book, The NICE Reboot, at the NY Business Expo in the Javits Center in Manhattan.
People have told me that they are actually afraid to network, or wish they had learned strategies to do so effectively earlier. I’m not scared of networking, prepping myself for it in advance, or even extending it to my social media channels.
What I am frightened of is the repeatedly displayed compilation of baffling, humorous, and detrimental snafus, many of which CAN be easily avoided!
As I wrote in the first part of this series last week:
I was amused, puzzled, perturbed, and even disappointed by some of the non-networking starters and tactics I saw people employ as I worked the room, “had the floor” and people’s ear, and even found myself a captive audience at different intervals.
What did I see? I saw these 3 behaviors again and again, and feel compelled to point them out in this post.
No-No’s for Today’s Entrepreneur:
1. Lack of eye contact:
As a sentient human being with something to say (I hope!) and a woman at that, I truly get offended when someone approaches me with conflicting body language signals, especially a man with no/little eye contact. Should we trust that person? You know the type….that person who either doesn’t look me in the eye, or has that wandering eye, scoping out the room and the next “hit”. I’m not talking about those folks with lazy eyes or poor vision, like that guy Whoopie Goldberg’s hilarious character Delilah points out in How Stella Got Her Groove Back. You know you do it, you know who you did it to, and you should be ashamed! Get your eyes checked! Check out your body language!
2. Lack of questioning:
As an educator and curious person I genuinely want to know about the welfare and goings-on of those around me. That’s why I ask questions; to politely express interest in others and hone in on a person’s inner landscape, especially re: ideas and leadership skills. If I am essentially at a network event to curate people and assess their value to my ecosystem, why would I talk only about myself or <gasp> let them only talk about themselves with me? Remember Bob, the narcissistic character Bill Murray plays in What About Bob? You know when you’re doing this and should hit the “pause” button! Get some manners and stop the promo-selfie monologue!
3. Lack of cross-pollination:
As a digital citizen living in the globally connected and technology driven iEra, we are all in need of creatively rebooting, and of globally connecting with others on multiple levels. We are a jack of all trades and both a tourist and ex-pat, simultaneously, in different arenas. Perhaps catering to a specific demographic and finding one’s niche market is the key to sustaining one’s entrepreneurial endeavor. Perhaps staying in one networking “zone” lets you be a true specialist and hide vulnerabilities. But is it the key to personal/professional growth?
My life (online and in real time) and my skillset have been greatly enhanced by attending networking events with a diverse group of attendees. I have found it quite educational and refreshing to go outside my comfort zone, my clearly marked “playground”. I have enriched my knowledge and gained invaluable mentorship by seeking out connections to people OUTSIDE of my industry. Those who teach me, challenge my way of thinking/doing things, and encourage me to develop my creativity, new outlooks, and new best practices. Remember Tris, the character Shailene Woodley plays in Divergent, and her hunger to join another faction and do something new? You really lose out when you “color inside the lines” especially at a live networking event!
So how can you avoid making these mistakes?
In my next post I will humorously point out whom to watch out for, avoid at all costs, and NOT emulate!
To be continued……