Ed: seeing as how it’s “holiday week” here in the U.S., we decided to give the WUL team a bit of a break. So we’re re-running some older posts … not necessarily the ones that got huge numbers of comments, but the ones that are personal favorites of the team.
Today’s pick (by moi!) is an updated version of Matt LaCasse’s terrific post from March 2011 on the secret behind good networking. Always relevant. Also, he recently welcomed his first child – a darling baby girl – into the world. Congrats Matt & family!
I hear a lot of people talking about networking.
How to do it, what are the do’s and don’ts, how much booze can I drink at a conference, on and on and on the list goes.
Image: takomabibelot via Flickr, CC 2.0
There’s a dirty little secret in the communications world though:
Networking is a joke.
I’ve come to this conclusion after really thinking about what “networking” means.
The general concept I get is walking around a room, drink in one hand, stack of business cards in the other, trying to meet as many people as possible.
It’s funny that in most areas of communication, we offer the advice of “quality, not quantity.”
Why shouldn’t it be the same when it comes to making connections?
I have a relatively small Twitter network.
Right now, I’m following just over 1,300 people and I have in the ballpark of 2K followers.
That’s nothing compared to other giants in our industry like the proprietor of this blog, Sarah Evans, Lauren Fernandez, Justin Goldsborough, Heather Whaling…
I could go on, but you get the picture.
I curate that list of who I follow, and who is following me, on near-daily basis.
It’s much more important to me to have a high quality network than a high quantity network.
Going to a conference with the express purpose of handing out the 500 business cards you take with you is a horrible idea.
I’d rather take 50 with me and make solid connections that I think will bear fruit; and if I give only 10 of those out, I’m fine with that because I know those 10 people will remember me.
If you’re at a conference like South by Southwest Interactive, just think about how many people are there.
All the stuff they’re carrying around, and just where are they going to put that precious business card of yours?
In the trash can most likely.
However, if you shrink your focus and set a goal of making five contacts that will increase your business or network in a substantial way, you’ll be far more successful.
Why? Because those people will remember speaking with you.
Of course, all of the rules of don’t drink too much, don’t be a creeper, do be friendly and open, do go out of your way to talk to people you don’t know all apply.
To be clear, I’m not saying you should make a list of five people you’re going to make a real impression on before you head out for conference du jour.
Go to the social hours.
Go to the sessions.
Meet and talk with a wide variety of people.
What I am saying that you don’t need to hand out your card to everyone you meet.
You are valuable, which means so is your business card.
Don’t treat it like it’s a party favor.
[…] The point is in the meetings. The point is in the people. The point is in connecting, reconnecting, and reveling in connection. […]
I don’t know how I missed this post: totally agree! I’d rather make solid connections rather than fleeting fly-by’s. I also, immediately after meeting someone and getting their card (if they indeed still have a card. Many don’t), I take a moment to note down, on the back (if it’s not laminated and not two-sided), things “about” the person. Personal things, like did they mention they have kids, a particular hobby or interest, the colours they’re wearing, anything else notable. I do this because it’s THOSE things that allow you to make a more personal connection with them in future. It’s like the “so, how are the kids’ soccer games going?” or “were you able to go fishing lately?”. It makes a meaningful, critical, important difference when we connect with people on that level, rather than just saying, “oh, I met you at xyz networking event.” Cheers! Kaarina
@KDillabough Great tips, Karina! Thanks for reading!
This is good stuff @MattLaCasse I often feel the network size is a false idol vs the quality of the network. In person and online. What if I had only 5 blog readers. And they were Warren Buffet. The President (insert name). Head of a big 5 US bank. Bill Gates. And @shonali my blog ranking would be so low and no one would think I was important……yet my klout in real life could be maybe 11 gazillion (mostly due to @shonali of course)
I take pride in who is in my network vs the size of it. And now there is studies that show some of the biggest names on Twitter have upwards of 30% fake accounts or inactive ones as followers.
@HowieG That’s the quintessential “influence” conundrum, right? Except that your Klout wouldn’t come from me, it would come from kdillabough and bacon. :p @MattLaCasse
@Shonali @HowieG @MattLaCasse You make me smile:))))
Since I seem to have trouble remembering who I want to meet and why once I arrive, I’ve taken to screen-snipping their Twitter and/or LinkedIn bio and photo into a Word document. I can fit up to 4 on a page so 1) I have a picture of a face to look for, and 2) the bio usually triggers why I wanted to meet them!
@tressalynne That’s a terrific idea, Tressa!
@MattLaCasse Ditto, Tressa – that’s a TERRIFIC idea! Do you carry that document with you? @tressalynne
@Shonali @MattLaCasse Yes, I tri-fold the sheet(s) of paper and put in my purse so I can sneak a peak at it, but try to keep it out of sight so no one thinks I’m a stalker LOL ;)
Although I do, in fact, go to said conferences with a stack of business cards and return home with a replacement stack of others’ cards, I have to wholeheartedly agree with Matt on this. “Quality” truly is of more value than “quantity.”
I recall, in my nascent years as a PR practitioner, being advised to “send your releases to as many places as possible” in the hopes that *someone* would actually use them. I took the opposite, more targeted approach with resulting pick-ups by target-market pubs.
Networking is very much the same. Taking a focused approach results in meaningful interactions in which each party remember the other’s name in the morning. (And don’t read too much into that last statement!)
Glad to see a re-run of this excellent post.
@KirkHazlett Thanks so much for the kind words, Kirk! I’ve always thought having quality in your contacts list is more important than how many you have.