The Art of Networking

Wednesday - April 3rd, 2013

Written by: Rob Ruscher

The Art of Networking

I had a professor in college that was one of the most blunt person I’ve ever met. He was a graduate of West Point and a Marine sniper. You can paint the picture. One of the first things he taught in class was that if you fear walking up and talking to new people, you won’t make it in this field. He proceeded to tell us that we should even go talk to our advisor and switch majors. From there he would repeatedly tell us that our personalities suck and we need to be better if we are going to be successful. Pretty rough but proving to be very accurate.

For a while I thought all I needed to do was introduce myself, say what I do, and then we do business. I quickly realized this wasn’t the case, I decided to try something new. I didn’t want to do the typical office jargon and exchange a business card. I wanted to have conversation that was more fun and enjoyable -hoping that one day when they need a video, they will remember how much they enjoyed talking with me and contact me about working together.

As I attend more events, I try to figure out not just a best practice, but a template for successful meetings with new people. These meetings are usually held at an event where everyone is shoved into a room, drinks are being served, and you don’t know a single person. To some this may seem intimidating, but for me, it is fun, exciting, and offers a ton of opportunities. This mental attitude is one you should hone  every chance you have to network.

What I have found, is that networking is an art form. You need to be creative, keep up with trends, and explore new ways to do it. I have heard everything from someone saying “Can I pitch you?” to “If you won a million dollars tonight, what would you do with it?.” Pretty extreme opposites with “So what do you do?” being the most common. Although it is to the point, it is common and you easily get forgotten with all the other people in the room. The leads that really stick and the events that become worthwhile, are the ones where I have conversations that don’t tie in work until the end of the conversation. I actually try to avoid talking business altogether.

This may seem odd to many and that’s fine, but it has been working very well for me. There is something meaningful when you can connect on something outside of making money and doing business. Whether it is sports, travel, family or even craft beer, I like to get on a more personal level when networking. Now, I don’t go into my life story or ask that of others, but I want to be seen as more than just a provider. I want to be seen as a person that you’d like work with and even grab a drink with when the job is done. The best compliment I got at a recent event was that we were “fun.”

Again, some may think that is odd, but the next morning I continued talking to everyone I met the night before while still meeting new people. We picked up right where we left off and just enjoyed an organic, fun, conversation. Although the conversation is on the fun and casual side, I stay as professional as I can. Business cards still get exchanged, I follow them on Twitter and connect on Linkedin. What’s great is I have something interesting to tweet and say on Linkedin other than “great meeting you.” You know what happens when you say that? They respond with “It was great meeting you too.” Maybe not every time, but most. Doesn’t leave many options to carry on the conversation -that’s what I try to do different. If you talked about interesting topics when you first met, you can continue those on social media platforms and emails. It adds personality, continues the conversation, and gives you a better chance of being remembered.

I challenge you try this at the next event you attend. Don’t try to force it either. From experience, I can tell you it doesn’t always work but that is the art of networking. You need to know when to go in a different direction and how to keep the conversation interesting. The second half of that is knowing when to end the conversation, shake hands and continue meeting new people. See if you can connect with potential clients in a different way that leaves them not only remembering you, but wanting to talk to you again.

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