Could your first experience at a live networking event possibly have been even more disastrous than mine was?

My reaction to my first business event caught me totally by surprise.

After all, I’d been meeting with people at events for years, both in my personal life and as part of my responsibilities as a volunteer leader in various  organizations.

I entered the room where this business event was being held. After greeting the people at the registration desk, I then turned to enter the room.

That’s when I came to a dead stop.

I saw all these people chatting with each other, with seemingly no interest in chatting with me; and like Lot’s wife in the book of Genesis, I turned into a pillar of salt.

After standing stock still for what seemed like an eternity, I turned around and walked away very fast — okay, I fled the room.

In retrospect, and after some research into the subject, I realized that I had no real clue about the basic principles of networking as a means for building one’s business.

PRINCIPLE #1 – Making a sale is NOT the primary purpose of a networking event.

When making a sale is one’s primary purpose, it’s easy to feel uncomfortable, pushy, and salesy. The purpose of trying to sell people right out of the box creates a negative energy that actually repels people.

So if making a sale is not the primary purpose of attending a network event, what is?

It’s getting to know people and to build positive relationships with them.

PRINCIPLE #2 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

If that principle sounds familiar, it’s because it is one of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Meeting people and immediately starting to tell them about your wonderful product, service, or opportunity is a real turnoff. It doesn’t feel so good doing it either.

Showing a genuine interest in other people is the way to go.

You start by asking good questions (to be covered in a future blog post), and then by listening carefully to the answers.

This allows you to open up a conversation that shows that you are listening carefully and taking a genuine interest in the other person.

PRINCIPLE #3 – Making an appointment at the event in the best and most efficient way to follow up with someone.

If you don’t invite people to take out their phone and find a mutually agreeable time to continue the conversation, you can end up playing phone tag or the emailing back and forth game to find a time that works for both of you.

You are saved from the tedious business of trying to make appointments with people whose initial interest or enthusiasm in what you have to say may have dissipated by the time they get a call or email from you (if they even answer the phone or actually read your email).

PRINCIPLE #4 – Networking as a business building tool is a long game, requiring both patience and perseverance.

The relationships you build when networking for business purposes have several possible outcomes:

  1. The person becomes a current client
  2. The person enrolls as a client some time down the road
  3. The person refers you to a possible client
  4. Even if none of the above options come to fruition, you have nonetheless planted a seed that has the potential to sprout into future business at some time down the road

In the meanwhile, did you actually have the courage to go to a live networking event to meet some of the people there?

Did you walk into the room to engage with some of those people, or did you act like a wall hugger? That was my second way of operating before I got better and more comfortable at playing the networking game.