“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
— Dale Carnegie
As a woman entrepreneur in the iEra I find myself often asking questions. About my own actions, not just the actions of others. I also find myself regularly taking note of cultural trends and touchstones, and social mores and social etiquette; on and off “the grid”. I thus find it disturbingly funny when I meet fellow women founders who tell me that they too have been in situations where they ask themselves, “Am I networking or is this a date?”
Many people share secrets to successful networking that go beyond leveraging social media like LinkedIn and having a sense of community. Many people will tell you that today’s entrepreneur needs to know how to diversify experiences in order to diversify relationships. Why? In order to subsequently create a culture and a following. Your passport is your stock certificate i.e. your personal brand, which will ultimately nurture those relationships.
In the startup arena, good networking is a result of honing specific skills and traits which put us in touch with our inner child, and our inner leader. Good networking also happens when we prepare ourselves beforehand. How? By asking the right questions and knowing the answers in advance.
Here are 10 questions to ask before actively networking:
- What’s your own brand ambassador style?
- What’s your Story that makes you stand out and resonate with the listener?
- How are you yourself perceived? Physically? Socially? Intellectually?
- What do you know about the other person? Industry?
- What kinds of influencers are you seeking? Why?
- Are you looking for actual clients in real time or for social media engagement?
- Are you looking to collaborate on projects in real time?
- Are you looking to recruit employees?
- Are you looking for speaking gigs?
- Are you seeking like-minded connections to build and retain an ecosystem?
As I wrap up this current series here on WordPress, I want to emphasize the importance of expanding one’s toolbox, so that you are more prepared for the curveballs and detours you encounter in startup-land. I also want to emphasize the importance of entrepreneurial “outside the box” thinking about building one’s tribe.
My main entrepreneurial takeaway re: networking is this:
The keys to building relationships are harnessing place and time. They can make or break you with regard to deliverables.
• A person’s place and placeholder no longer exist on only one plane of existence. Thanks to technology and social media, today’s entrepreneurs can network online and offline 24/7. This is especially relevant to bloggers who share information and people who share suggested reading lists, not to mention actually borrowing and sharing someone else’s eBook. There is also much exposure and opportunity for curation of both content and people when one engages in library events by actively contributing more than a business card and/or company flyer or calendar etc. I also recommend writing product/book reviews on Amazon and signing off with your partial or full digital footprint so that people can find you later on.
• A person’s time is the key to happiness, which is something to think about when building relationships in a world that promotes the glorification of busy. It is also something to keep in mind when developing systems i.e. workflows which help you be more productive so that you have more time to really listen and connect with others. This is especially relevant for entrepreneurs who need to engage in marketing and social selling in the Age of “Me Time“.
Networking, like public speaking, is an art that CAN be learned and honed. The alchemy of communication and resonance between the speaker and listener gets altered by place and time, and by the separate/collective agenda driving the interaction. That’s why I still believe in the power of attending a live event, and in the power of both the spoken and written word.
There is real power in the well placed curiosity and empathy towards others; two characteristics of an effective networker!