Below is Part 1 of an article I penned for NSide Texas Business Magazine:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People
Recently, a colleague and I attended an event for the British Consulate General. We arrived early and were just about to split up and mingle when we spotted “Chatty Cathy” come blazing up to the registration table. You know Chatty, don’t you—that person who ‘gloms-on’ for the entire event, talking at you non-stop? We just want to ask her to take a breath and come up for air! Luckily for us, Chatty did not clear the gatekeepers. If she had, how would you have handled her?
In the past, I’ve handled Chatty by visiting with her for 5 minutes, and then saying politely, with a smile: “It has been nice to visit with you Cathy, thank you for your time” or “Please excuse me; I’ve enjoyed our conversation, and hope you did too.” Even more important – how do you avoid being a “Chatty” yourself?
Networking requires some preparation, unless you wish to approach it like ‘Chatty Cathy” with her hair on fire!
Before you join a networking organization:
1. Seek Self-Awareness: Are you comfortable with who you are as a person? Do you have an understanding of both your communication style and personality profile? Your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have a written list of values and beliefs? Regardless of where you are in your career, if you cannot answer these questions in the affirmative (and positively), engage an executive coach to help you. There are numerous self-assessment tools, including I-Speak, DISC and Myers-Briggs to work with, also. All of this self-discovery work will help you decide which appropriate networking groups to join.
2. Research the Networking Organization: Research and know about the networking group. Read about the hosts, speaker or panel members so you are familiar with their backgrounds. A picture is worth a thousand words — viewing prior photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be invaluable to determine the tone, camaraderie and formality of the group and get a sense of its “spirit.” (You can also determine the formality of an event by asking when you RSVP.) Visit as a guest until you decide that you’d like to commit to membership. Choose your groups carefully; not all will be a good fit. Be willing to invest time in your membership of these groups. Remember it is not just about receiving or selling – it is about the relationship.
Next week: What to do once you’ve arrived at your networking event.