Was That Networking Event Worthwhile?

Was That Networking Event Worthwhile?

Have you ever left an event and asked yourself, “Was that networking event worthwhile?” In reality, the answer is “Absolutely!”. After all, every event offers value. Some offer more immediate value than others. They all have value, however.

Track your results however you deem appropriate. But before you completely pass judgment on an event, remember that the benefits of any networking activity may not present themselves for weeks, months, or even years. So keep track of who you met, follow through on any promises you made, and patiently wait to see what comes from your attendance at this event.

Don’t Foul Up The Follow-Up

Don't Foul Up the Follow Up

Networking events are wonderful. The conversations can be exhilarating. And the whole experience productive. With all the effort you put into the event, don’t foul up the follow-up!

Follow-up or follow-through regarding whatever you promised to. If you pledged to reconnect, do so. If you offered to introduce them, make it happen. If you indicated you would send them something, get it sent.

Know this, so few people follow through on what they say they are going to do. That is a sad, but true fact. Given that, if you are committed to doing so, you immediately elevate yourself ahead of a significant portion of the networking population. Remember, you can build a great network as long as you don’t foul up the follow-up.

155) Seeking Conversation

Seeking Conversation

Why do you go to networking events? There are probably lots of potential reasons. And those reasons change from event to event and from one time to another.

One reason you don’t go to networking events, however, is to stand by your lonesome and quietly sip your coffee or whatever. Of course not.! You’re there to engage in conversation.

This begs the question:  How do you seek out people to talk to at events?

Know this: It is much easier to engage one person in conversation than a whole group.

So, when you arrive at an event or whenever you find yourself without someone to talk to, look for that person standing alone.

You know what? Chances are, that person is hoping for someone just like you to engage them in conversation. So, at next networking event, look for that person and go make a friend.


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Overcoming Aversion to Attending Networking Events

Overcoming Aversion to Attending Networking Events

According to research, among people’s greatest fears are:

  • Death by Fire
  • Public Speaking &
  • Vacationing with In-Laws

Not far behind is finding oneself in a room full of total strangers. Even if you don’t fear that situation, you might NOT be totally comfortable with it. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One surefire method to overcome the anxiety of being at events is to Have the Right Frame of Mind. While this may sound obvious, there are plenty of people who trip up their networking efforts before they even arrive at the event.

Remember that networking works, although not always exactly as you had hoped. Before you embark on the networking event, you need to truly believe that the process works and that your mere presence has set that process in motion.

While your mere presence is important, you will totally undermine your efforts if you bring with you anything but a positive disposition. Now, not every day, month or year, for that matter, can be a good one, but there is something good about each. Reflect on the positive aspects of your personal and professional life. Do what you can to be of uplifting spirits. Remember, while support groups can be a networking opportunity, most networking events are not designed to be support groups. So, leave your worries at the door, to the extent possible.

Finally, embark on any networking event with a sincere expectation of the outcome. It may not be all that you hoped for, since there is no guarantee that you will get a new client out of it. But know this – something will come from you being there. You might meet someone that can refer you or put you one step closer to a new client. You might reconnect with a former client or center of influence or gain a piece of information that holds untold value. There are a plethora of potential benefits that can come from any networking event. You will never get it all, but you will likely always get something.

Social Media: What Can It Do For Me?

Social media is a tool to help you network but it is not a replacement for networking. It is best analogized as a giant, ongoing, searchable networking event. Great! But the $64,000 question is “What Can It Do For Me?”

First, social media is an effective means of networking THROUGH to people. You can meet attorneys, bankers and those associated with employment transition. In short, social media is a great way to find and work through strategic partners who can lead you to clients. It is not geared for selling. Again, remember, it is just like a networking event and you would not dream of overtly hawking goods or services there, so do not do it here.

Second, social media is a wonderful way to position yourself in the hearts and minds of others, especially if you are new to a profession. Many of the people who know you, know you as someone else. Even if you have been in a particular profession for a long time, your online network might not fully appreciate what it means. LinkedIn provides you a platform to brand yourself as a knowledgeable and committed person in your profession (someone to know, like and trust). It will not do this over night, but in time you can create an expert of yourself on LinkedIn.

Finally, and likely of most interest, social media is a great means of creating opportunity. Through it, you can connect with people that can lead you to clients. Through it, you can find events that can lead you to clients. Through it, you can get information that can connect you to clients. Through it, clients can become aware of you and connect with you directly. It will not provide a windfall immediately; some days will be better than others. But over time the opportunities will be there.

Social Media As Compared To Traditional Networking

Everyone has been to a networking event … Business After-Hours, Open House or Tradeshow … A gathering of people with the ability to interact with each other. Do you know what? That is what social media is, nothing more than a networking event. It is just another networking event, EXCEPT for some important differences.

First, your average networking event might have a few hundred people all from a local area. Social media, however, boast having millions of people participating (and likely 100s of thousands in your region) and they are scattered all over the world.

Second, most networking events operate on a particular day and time. If you happen to be busy during that day and time (say, Friday at 7:30 am), you are out of luck until the next event. With LinkedIn, however, this networking event is going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. During the big game you can participate in the event while you watch TV. If you can’t sleep, you can come online to the event. Even on Thanksgiving Day (or any other major holiday) you can be part of this continuously operating networking event.

Finally, when you walk into a networking event and see new faces, you cannot tell who is who. The guy in the suit could be a corporate executive or someone in transition. You just don’t know. If you are looking to network with attorneys, you generally find them via introduction or by trial and error. With social media (especially LinkedIn, in this instance), you can find the people you are looking for quickly and you can know a ton about them before you start to converse.

So approach social media as if it were just another networking event, but know that it also has the wonderful advantages of being worldwide and immense, continuously operating and rich with searchable information.

Creating A Referral Machine 1 of 7

You are ambitious. You are savvy. You want to be more successful. You want to work smarter and not harder. You know that referrals are the means of achieving that. Referrals are the most effective means of creating this greater success. 

The best place to be in business, (any business or profession) is the point where your new clients are almost exclusively generated from people in your network. These are friends, colleagues, strategic partners and even former clients sending you prospective clients.

At this point, your network becomes your sales force. In short, you have effectively created a referral machine and that machine (i.e., your network) is working for you, even when you are not working.

This begs the question, “How do I create a referral machine?” We start on this in Part 2.

The Strength Of Weak Ties

In addition to the types of people in your network, you need to consider the extent to which you know people in your network.

In Getting A Job, author and sociologist Mark Granovetter found that 56% of people found jobs through personal contacts. Not surprising. After all, it is not “what you know, but who you know.” 

The surprise was that the personal contacts used to obtain these jobs were not family or friends – “close ties”. Rather most could be classified as “weak ties”.  55.6% reported that they saw their “job-producing” contact only occasionally and 27.8% saw their contact only rarely.

So, when it comes to job hunting – or finding clients – weak ties tend to be more important than strong ties.

Why? Because close ties tend to occupy the same world as you do. A spouse or close friend may share many of the same network contacts as you and is likely to only refer or connect you to people you already know.

Mere acquaintances, or “weak ties”, on the other hand, are much more likely to know people that you do not. While you might share a small overlap in networks, most of the people they know are completely unknown to you.

The take-away? Do NOT rely solely on close ties to fortify your network. A better means is to associate with people you don’t know well – the person from work that you know casually from meetings or trips on the elevator; the person you see every week at church but, beyond a name, you know little else about.

From a networking perspective, the most valuable people aren’t those closest to you. In fact, the more people you know who aren’t close to you, the stronger your position becomes.

In summary, the quality of your relationships matters and one measure of quality is the strength or weakness of the tie. Having lunch with your long-time best buddy can be fun but does little to build your network. If you want to build your network, have lunch with someone you know … but not that well.

The “Kevin Bacon” Game

Kevin Bacon is a popular American actor. The idea behind the Kevin Bacon game is to link any actor or actress to Kevin Bacon through the movies they’ve been in. 

For example: Mary Pickford was in “Screen Snapshots” with Clark Gable, who was in “Combat America” with Tony Romano who, 35 years later, was in “Starting Over” with Kevin Bacon.  Three Steps.

In the 1990s, computer scientist Brett Tjaden determined that Kevin Bacon was on average 2.8312 steps from any actor or actress, which placed him 668th of all actors and actresses. Then he determined the overall connectivity of a host of other actors and actresses. Among the top 50 were names such as Martin Sheen, Robert Mitchum, Gene Hackman, Donald Sutherland, Rod Steiger, and Shelly Winters.

Duncan Watts and Steven Strogatz further attempted to determine why actor Burgess Meredith, who appeared in 114 films, ranked in the top 20 when Gary Cooper, with a similar number of films, ranked 878th, and John Wayne, with 183 films to his credit, only ranked 160th.

They concluded that while Gary Cooper and John Wayne appeared in a significantly greater number of movies, the movies were of a similar type. In fact, over 50% of John Wayne’s movies were westerns.

Burgess Meredith, on the other hand, appeared in fewer but a greater variety of films: 42 dramas, 22 comedies, 8 adventures, as well as action, documentary, science fiction, horror, western, thrillers, crime, children, romance, mysteries, and even a musical and one animated film.

What can you take away from the Kevin Bacon game? If your network looks like Burgess Meredith’s career, with lots of variety and diversity, you’re probably doing great! But if your network resembles John Wayne’s career – lots of connections but from relatively few sources – you need to diversify.

To explore the real potential of your network, you need to live in lots of worlds – work, church, PTA, youth sports, trade association outside your profession, etc.

Networking Is Nothing New

Networking is simply human interaction and it has been with us since the beginning of time. These human interactions are really just the relationships we have with one another. How we connect. Some connections are passing. Some connections are more lasting. Some connections are seemingly lifelong.

Given this, networking is, more or less, really just human behavior. Talking. Listening. Understanding. Being empathetic, encouraging, inspiring, smiling, laughing, and being a friend. Thus, all human behaviors involving other people are relationship-based and is networking.

The wonderful thing about human behavior is that there are patterns to it. While the patterns may not be perfectly predictable – as you might find with a chemical reaction or a physics experiment – there are patterns generally there.

Whenever there are patterns, however, there is curiosity. And whenever there is curiosity, you will find people of science trying to explain the patterns through studying, observing, and examining them.

Human behavior involving our relationships is no different. The social sciences – sociology, psychology, and economics, just to name a few – for years have examined how humans relate to one another, both personally and professionally.