An introduction is the key to successful networking. But sometimes we just can’t connect. Learn 6 ways to build productive connections.
I attended a conference recently. It was a conference for authors who wanted to become professional speakers. On the train back returning home I realized I had made a BIG mistake.
What was my mistake? I didn't connect with enough of the attendees. I often tell people that the biggest benefit you get from attending seminars is often not the actual content but the people you meet and the relationships that you build.
Why Networking and Connecting Sometimes Fails
I was thinking about it the entire train ride back. What happened? I started out sitting in the front of the room and by the end of the conference I was sitting in the last row, on the isle, in the seat closest to the exit.
Why didn't I connect? Why did it seem to get worse as the conference went on?
Looking back, I realized it had to do with how I was introducing myself. I failed to follow my own advice! (Remember that classic quote: “We teach what we most need to learn!”)
I was too focused on me and not focused enough on the people I met. What exactly was my mistake? I introduced myself as a “professional speaker.” You might be saying, “Well what’s wrong with that? You are a professional speaker, aren’t you?”
Yes, I am. And normally that's what I say. But in this case saying that wasn’t the best choice. In fact, it was a really bad choice!
Build Rapport Through Common Ground
I didn’t keep in mind that the other attendees were there to learn how to be professional public speakers. A better and equally true answer could have been: "I am an author trying to make public speaking a bigger part of my business."
The point is, my choice of words separated me from my fellow attendees. While I was unconsciously protecting my ego, I was creating distance.
I’m embarrassed to admit this but it gets worse. After one of my proclamations of “professional speaker,” someone asked me: "Well then, what is your goal for attending?" With a smirk, I replied: “espionage!" (I mentioned I am embarrassed, right?)
Later someone subtly corrected me and said, "Oh, you're doing research." Research was in fact more accurate. (I was interested in aspects of the training and I also wanted to see what material resonated with the audience. The speaker knew I was there and in fact had invited me.) Choosing the word “espionage” again distanced me, instead of connecting.
Finally, I noticed that I chose not to introduce myself to some people based on the topic of his or her book. I won’t lie, I was judging a person by his book (cover). If I thought the topic was “hocus pocus,” I didn’t bother.
Other times I chose not to introduce myself because I felt intimidated. For example, I wasn’t sure I wanted to meet image consultants or fitness consultants because I wasn’t feeling good about my appearance.
So what would I do differently next time? What can you learn from my mistakes? Here are 6 Quick and Dirty tips to successful networking: