How many times have you found yourself at a networking event, only to feel like you’re at a networking event?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: These aren’t the events where real networking is taking place.
I don’t go to networking events. I don’t attend things that require me to put on a “Hello, My Name Is” nametag. I rarely attend big conferences with keynote speakers that spend 45 minutes talking about how you “just have to hustle” and “marketing is all about great content,” with absurd ticket prices that promise you will rub shoulders with “all the right people.”
I’ve tried these avenues, and they are always one-way streets toward the same disappointing destination.
Real networking happens here instead
It happens in backyards and exclusive dinners. Private meet-ups and friends getting together for drinks.
Real networking happens when a friend introduces you to a friend. And then that friend introduces you to a new group of people. And then in that new group of people, you make a new friend.
And on and on and on…
99% of people don’t approach networking this way. Here’s why
People lack patience.
They wear their desperation on their sleeves, and approach networking in a way that immediately reveals their true intentions. They don’t want to get to know you, or learn about what it is you do and how they can truly help.
What they want is to pitch their business. What they want is you to give them something.
This is such a short-sighted approach to building your network.
The reason big networking events fail is because everyone who attends tends to operate from the same script. Meaningful conversations aren’t taking place — just two people with business cards in their hands, giving their pitches back and forth. And then what happens? Both parties nod, smile, say, “Well, it was great connecting with you. I’ll shoot you an email and let’s go from there.”
And then nothing happens.
Because people like to do business with people they like, people they trust, and people they know through other friends and shared connections.
This is the 1 rule you should follow instead, if you want to build a powerful network for yourself
Make friends, not connections.
At the end of the day, I would rather work with someone I genuinely connect with over working with someone who treats me like a vendor.
And so would everybody else.
When you’re building your network, look for the situations that are going to allow you to make friends — even if they’re business friends. Small settings do well. Friends of friends and e-mail introductions go a long way. Whatever you do, just keep the focus on making meaningful connections, instead of throwing your business cards all over the floor and hoping someone with a name tag picks one up.
It might seem like a slower process, but what you’ll end up with is a strong circle of people you trust — instead of a rolodex with a bunch of people who don’t return your calls.
Cole is a writer, speaker and founder of Digital Press.