How to Network Effectively

I recently attended one of my favorite networking events, the CEO-CFO Group.  The room is filled largely by other people who serve the same clients I do and every time I enter the room, I hug and shake hands with a bunch of people with whom I’ve developed relationships over the course of the last year and a half.   As I stood chatting with someone I hadn’t seen in a few weeks, I was buzzed by a BCC – a business card collector.  This woman worked for a national bank, was a new face at the lunch as far as I could tell, and clearly wanted only to trade cards with people.  She didn’t even bother to introduce herself and find out my name.  It was just, “here’s my card, can I have one of yours?”

Now in this particular group, that behavior stood out because the rest of the people in the room understand true networking is not about being a BCC.  It’s about building relationships.  There were easily 50 people in the room and I came out with maybe three business cards.  That’s not to say the meeting was a waste.  Far from it.  I reconnected with people I don’t usually see other than at that meeting and they introduced me to a few new people.  It’s not about the quantity of cards you collect, it’s about the quality of the relationships you build.

The next time you attend a networking event, change your mindset.  Don’t just try to collect as many cards as possible and immediately add everyone to your mailing list.  Set a goal to meet three people, at most, with whom you have more than a 10-second conversation.  Ask them what kinds of clients they serve and ask what types of people they want to meet.  If their business complements yours in any way, meet them for coffee later in the week.

True quality networking takes time.  Don’t expect to attend an event, give your 30-second spiel, and come away with six new clients.  Take the time to get to know people, learn about their businesses, and the relationships will grow.  Out of those relationships, referrals will come.  Trust me, I’m a lawyer.

And check out this article from The Onion, “89 Percent of Networking Nonconsensual” for a good laugh.