Networking is vitally important for anyone in business. Whether one’s own business or representing another’s business interests. Getting out and about to meet other folks can make the difference in whether we succeed or not.
Last Thursday evening, I was part of a large event in my home community. I had a major part in the planning and execution so I had little time to network the huge crowd that gathered in (and filled) the ballroom of our community building. Since I hate to network large groups, I was quite content to stay hidden away in the kitchen and gymnasium.
I share the above because it’s the prelude to remarks about the importance of networking – even when you know most of the folks in the room. The ballroom was packed, and I might add. . . hot. The noise of chatting voices was noticeable even with all the doors to the room shut. They ate, drank and chatted for over an hour. And no one seemed to complain. When asking some attendees what was best about the evening; almost to a person, they said “the networking”. ‘
I don’t live in a large city. We’re rural Indiana and unless you’re new in town, most folks know most folks. At least the business folks know most of the rest of the business folks because we’re rural Indiana. Yet the best part of the evening for most was the reception which was munching, drinking and, you got it. . . networking. Networking with folks they already now in a hot, crowded room for over an hour. No one complained and everyone enjoyed chatting with each other as they made their way around and through folks munching, drinking and chatting.
We’re social creatures and I get that. And if we’re social creatures in business, we love to get out and mingle with others as an opportunity to make connections and build our business potential. However, there’s something about the fact that these folks, for the most part, knew each other. Some of them for years and are even customers of each other. So why the exultation of getting together in that crowded hot room on a Thursday evening after work? Here’s some of my thoughts:
- Networking is nothing more than being social. If we’re social creatures already, then networking should come with the territory of being human, alive and in business.
- Networking ought not be something we dread – unless of course you are me. But that’s for another post on another day!
- Networking does not always have to be about meeting new people. Sometimes seeing and chatting with folks we know but don’t normally see often in a social setting can be very rewarding – and productive!
- Networking ought not be centered on business. If he or she asks me about a new widget they heard I just launched; of course I will share about it. But if I’m asked about the newest grandchild, I’ll be just as happy to whip out pictures of him or her.
- Networking should not be disappointing. Disappointing because I didn’t make a sale or didn’t make a follow up appointment – in fact didn’t come away with anything business related. If the person with whom I’m chatting is new to me; then the custom of sharing business cards is certainly acceptable. Otherwise, just socializing may be good enough.
Finally, a skill we might want to learn – or brush up on if we feel a bit rusty, is the art of chit-chat. The art of light social conversation. For what I learned from last Thursday’s experience is that networking is the art of making connections, even with those we know and know well. And spending a little time just munching, drinking and chatting.
That’s pretty much the long and short of successful networking as I see it!
Linda S. Fitzgerald, M.S.Ed, CEO & Visionary Partner
A Women’s Place Network, Inc. dba
Affiliated Women International
Building a Community for Christian Business Women
The Neighborhood at Facebook
AWIBoutiques at Facebook