Updated: Mar 2, 2021
If I sent you a personal invitation to an upcoming business networking event, what would your response be to that invitation?
Great! I haven’t seen Lisa in awhile and we’ll be able to catch up. Between the two of us, we can introduce one another to new contacts at the event.
Ugghh…I do hate that networking event. Too many people more focused on the free food than having a meaningful conversation. What excuse can I make up?
My guess is many would say B.
I frequently hear from people about their discomfort, dislike and bad experiences around networking. I have my own stories as well; yet the new connections I’ve met that have become business friends always keep me wanting to network. I remain open to the potential of the next new and interesting person I can meet. I believe to my core there is an important role for networking in business.
Definition of networking:
“the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business” – Merriam - Webster
Networking: Flipping the Script
Reading an article (The New Rules of Networking) and my own recent networking have me thinking about changing the way we network. Over the last several months I have hosted 2 small scale networking events (12-16 people).
One I co-organized and one was my corporate client's and my Centres of Influence who are helping me grow my business. One event was a structured group event and one had no structure. Both created conversations, opportunities and most importantly, new relationships. The emails of appreciation and thanks were evidence that guests enjoyed the networking opportunity. I have another one in the works for the fall. This time the group will be sales leaders. This group lives and breathes conversations and I am looking forward to bringing them together.
I am all about change so perhaps I can be a catalyst in supporting a new approach to networking. Perhaps now is the time to take networking from a dreaded business activity to an anticipated gathering and a place to expect great conversation. I look forward to being a leader in enabling a different form of networking. I am excited to be part of these gathers and discussions.
The Roller Coaster of Event Planning
Don't be fooled, however; taking on this focus is not without its risks and challenges. My network of event planners will be nodding their heads knowing that it’s a roller coaster ride up to the event. Planning an event, even small scale, takes as much focus and follow-up as business development. You often get a lot of No's - sometimes up to 75%. That’s a lot of No to take in a short time frame.
Then there’s the last minute guest list change. While I am very comfortable with the roller coaster of a selling opportunity, I am still building my competence, confidence and nerves for event planning. This journey is made easier by working with a great partner. I have the support of someone who, in addition to helping me with my bookkeeping, knows how to perfectly pull the logistics of an event together. She helps make the event run perfectly! The point is, while small networking is simple in concept, it still takes planning and effort to make it successful.
My concept of small scale networking is not original and the best part is that it’s totally within my impact and influence. Most importantly, I am doing what I say I am going to do. Even better, you can do this too.
Lisa W. Haydon's definition of networking:
Spaces and forums that enable conversation and relationship building between business professionals. Networking at its peak function enables long lasting business relationships where business people work together to help one another in a balanced give and take philosophy. In some instances there may be a financial gain and, in the majority of interactions, it’s done based on contributing to an enjoyable business relationship.
Preparation is Key
Still not convinced networking is worth your time? Those that work with me know I coach to meeting preparation for business development. My advice for networking would also be based on preparation. The formula for making networking great is based on:
I have a framework if you'd like to explore this more.
So if I asked you to a small scale event that had a short yet intentional agenda, would you come network with me?
Lisa W. Haydon is a high business acumen leader, credentialed sales professional, and executive coach. Lisa has led teams and clients in industries such as banking, commercial lending, capital markets, technology, consulting, and professional services. Her hands-on experience in executing change and growth mandates enhances client results. She is known for delivering transformational results with diagnostic tools, consulting and coaching.
Lisa is the founder of Pivotal Coaching, which specializes in sales effectiveness and leadership development services for companies optimistic and ambitious about growth. More information is available on the Pivotal Coaching website. For more on its proprietary diagnostic tool, visit our services page.