Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stop Forcing Me to Meet People!

Okay, this isn't really personal, but we all feel this pain. And the title is a good line to send to everyone in your network … and they should feel comfortable telling you the same.

Another title for this blog post could be: Stop Forcing Other People to Kiss Frogs. And Stop Being that Frog.

As set up... a very successful Business Developer I manage sent me this Onion article. In a nutshell, it's a joke article about people being forced to talk "features and benefits" and "skill sets" non-consensually. Like most good jokes, it's funny because it's true.

More truth:
1) You are not at networking events to talk synergies or features and benefits. If you think you are, then please look at my schedule and avoid the events I attend. Also, I'm short, balding and have a beard. Please avoid anyone that fits this description, in case it's me. (All short, bearded, balding people now owe me a "thanks.")
2) If you are sharking the room to find chum, then see #1 above.
3) And while we are on the subject, do not connect anyone together via e-mail without both of their permissions.

Question: So why even go to networking events?
Answer: To set up "synergy" conversations at a later date.

Question: But how can I do this without telling them all of my skill sets in painful detail, while guessing at what they might find valuable without any actual context?
Answer: Converse at a higher level. If you connect, you can then arrange a time for the other conversation. A time when you are both prepared for it.

• What are you seeing "out there" right now?
• How are you/your firm dealing with ___insert critical business topic or current event here ___?
• What brings you here? How do you know the organizers?
|>The goal of networking events is to connect with people on a high level. Any "synergy" conversations can happen when you meet at a later date for coffee – after you do some research to make sure the follow-up discussion is valuable for them.<|
Yes, the point of networking is to meet new people, though you should know the type of new people in the room, if not also their names, before you bother to go. But forcing them to hear your "story" – right there and then – is sad and pathetic, not valuable. If you think it's fun or cathartic, there are professionals you can pay to listen.

In short: Elevator pitches are for set moments, not networking events. Unsure when? Err on the side of: not now.

Now to #3.

When you send an e-mail connecting two people together, assuming you did not get their prior permission, you are likely wasting their most irreplaceable resource: time.

They now have to meet or risk insulting both the other person and you. The likelihood they will find mutual value is low. The odds either of them needs yet another random network contact is even lower*. While you think you are doing them a favor, you are more likely punishing them for knowing you or ever having given you their contact information.
|>My response to unapproved e-connections is generally: What gives you the right to promise this person an hour of my time? Your response should be the same.<|
Ask for the right. Explain, specifically, why you think the connection might be of value to them. And don't be upset if they politely decline. In fact, if they decline, you have just been complimentary, helpful and irreplaceably valuable.
1) You let them know you are thinking of them. Complimentary.
2) You have now gotten a better idea of who they believe is a valuable connection. Or who they believe is not. Helpful.
3) You saved them an hour of wasted time. Irreplaceably valuable.

Now get out there and network. Assuming you need to meet more people ... though you likely do not.

*Next up: I plan to assess the last 3 years of my networking coaching efforts to see how many of my clients actually needed to meet more people. I doubt it will be a high number. Off the top of my head, I can only think of 1 company and 4 individuals that didn't already have enough contacts to build out their referral/promoter networks. So why are they meeting more people? Watch this space.

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