Making Networking Fun
What Is Networking?
Recently at a concert which I learned about from a networking group, a friend of mine introduced herself to a lady sitting at my table. "We network together," she said referring to me.
To our surprise the lady proceeded to tell us that she only recently purchased her first computer. She said she didn't even know what a mouse was yet, but was excited to find out more about this thing called Farmville.
We politely nodded and listened to her go on for a bit about her new found computer skills. Then it dawned on me. She thought that my friend and I networked computers!
Networking is a way of maximizing the adage my father would tell me "It's not what you know, its who you know." Networking is a term used to describe the coming together of people for the explicit purpose of developing and maintaining relationships that will benefit their business or career. Believe it or not, even with the growing popularity and success of social networking online, people still get together face to face!
Where to Network
There are several venues for networking. I found some great networking groups on facebook! Networking groups in my town have a facebook page and I found them by doing a search for the name of my town.
Some networking groups are closed. That means that they only accept one person from every type of industry. The insurance industry often fills quickly because there are so many agents out there! CPA's, financial managers and attorneys are also often competitors to enter into a closed group. These groups usually charge a fee and are typically very structured and have a high demand for referrals.
Other groups are open. One group most people are aware of is the chamber of commerce, but there are many other options available as well. These groups often host a variety of events such as cocktail mixers and luncheons. The structure of these groups depends on the venue. Mixers have much less structure than a sit down meeting.
One of my favorite networking groups hosts a get together nearly every night of the week. InHouston hosts a website full of professionals looking to build relationships with other business professionals. Attendance at an InHouston event never costs a dime (unless ordering a drink or meal from the venue.) The frugality of these events, however, is not the reason it stands among my favorites. That has more to do with its foundation.
Making Networking Fun
InHouston is based on a concept that makes so much sense. It's called "give first."
The idea behind building relationships at networking events is that people like to do business with people they know, like, and trust. It takes a while for that to happen, so when people attend an event, they should realize that they are not about making sales. People attend networking groups with their "elevator pitch" ready to go, but should understand that is not the best way to develop a relationship.
InHouston's give first and servant leadership basis is actually more fun than walking around with an elevator pitch. Anyone can walk around, shake a hand and say "I sell XYZ," but it is actually far more fun to give first. It is like taking on a giant puzzle.
Whenever I am at an InHouston event, or any event, each person I meet becomes a puzzle piece. I think to myself, "Who do I know that can use that ?" Then it becomes a game of the highest amount of leads I can think of for one person in a night.
Now think about it. I've taken all of the stress off of myself. I don't have to worry about getting someone to believe I am the best insurance agent or teeth whitener out there. I just try to find people that will help the business of the people I know...easy! I meet lots of people at networking events, and they often fit very well together.
But how does that help my business? Well, if someone you met sent you 3 or 4 leads, how would you feel about them? Would you like them? What about trust? You would certainly know that person is a great person to know! Now I've got business coming to me, and I didn't have to give a pitch to get the referral.
If the giving first puzzle doesn't sound like fun, maybe you should just go to the cocktail parites. They have alcohol.