Recently I went to two different conventions, one for fun and personal interests and the other for work. Conventions are great places to network because it is a bunch of like-minded people getting together to talk about something that they’re passionate about. You don’t have to seek them out, they’ve gathered together for you.
There are many places like this online. Forums, fan pages on Facebook, and lists on Twitter are just a few of the many places that like interest people gather together, not to mention the hundreds of blogs on any niche topic you can come up with. The trick is to utilize these gatherings of people and network to not only get your product out there, but also to meet new people and build trust.
Unfortunately at the two conventions I went to I mostly failed at the whole networking thing, especially at the second convention (granted the second day I was sick, but still). I only gave out my business card to one (count them, 1) person total, and that was because I told myself I couldn’t leave until I did (I left right after). I was able to say hi to some of the panelists, but it wasn’t anything that would make them remember me out of the hundreds of other people that were there trying to network too.
On the whole the one good experience was definitely a foil for my many other failures. And from those, here is what I’ve learned about how to NOT network:
- Don’t talk – Lack of communication is the number one way to NOT make friends and influence people. It’s also a great way to cause misunderstandings and frustration.
- Blend in – If they can’t see you they won’t know that you’re there. Online they call this lurking—you observe but never contribute.
- Be sick – Well I guess that’s not really a requirement, but being grumpy, miserable and lethargic is indeed a turn off and a great way to have people avoid you.
- Don’t have a purpose – At the first convention I knew more the type of person that I was interested in networking with. At the second I didn’t. So I ended up just swiping swag off their tables. Online you can really get distracted by all the “voices” calling out to you that you have to be very clear on the types of people you want to network with or you will end up going around in circles where you just waste your time.
- Don’t follow up – The one person that I handed my business card to emailed me the next day to make sure that the I’d remember him and to reinforce the relationship we had started. He’s definitely better at networking than me.
Moral of the story:
Don’t do what I did at the conventions. Go talk to people, both on- and offline. Be memorable. Be interested in other people and they will most likely be interested in you. Be a likable person so that people will WANT to be your friend.
And don’t be afraid to talk to strangers–they may be just the person you’re looking for. Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart said, “Many people make introductions, get promoted, or jumpstart career transitions because of networking – having the courage to meet new people and having the discipline to maintain familiar contacts.” So stay in contact with old and new friends—you never know when you might hit a gold mine.