No matter how great an event is, you probably won't like about two-thirds of the people you meet there. Yes, two-thirds! Of course, that depends on the event, your communication skills, purpose, and understanding of networking. And by "don't like" I mean "you don't have a great connection". Not "hate" although I suppose that can happen too!
Maybe you should consider yourself lucky when you do meet someone you hit it off with. Think about when you first met the people who are still in your life today. Usually there's a great story behind how you met those with whom you now have a lasting relationship.
How did you meet the love of your life? Did you know at the time that you would be friends or BFF's (that's best friends forever if you're out of touch) or whatever? Or did the relationship go through phases?
It works the same way with the connections you make through business networking. You meet people at events and, given your initial contact and the behavior that follows, you develop a relationship. Or not! But at networking events (as in life) you meet all kinds of people and greet many different faces. Everybody is different. Different interests, agendas, and motives. As a networker, you have to be prepared to deal with all of these new faces in new places. Which one are you?
There's always someone in the crowd who's negative. They're negative about the economy, health-care reform, the political climate, job search--"Nobody's hiring." They're negative about their business, the industry that they're in, their profession. They're negative about the event and everyone they meet and everyone else's products. They're negative about companies they've worked for. Negative people love company and attract more negative people.
All Hard-Sell Harry cares about is selling to everyone that he can. He only wants to talk about his products and services. He is sizing you up as a prospect, trying to identify pain you might be suffering as it relates to your business and looking to shake you down for your money. Hard-Sell Harry almost always knows exactly what he's doing. In some cases, he may not realize the purpose of a networking event. Harry has a "hunting" rather than a "farming" mindset. And nobody wants to feel hunted. Financial advisors are often culprits at being the "hunter" which is why they often struggle seeing enough good people. Again, nobody wants to feel hunted.
It's a similar situation with Self-Centered Sally, but it's not so much that she's pitching her wares; she just wants to talk about how wonderful she is--how great she is at what she does, how everybody loves her, how much money she makes. "I'm so successful. I've been published here, and I've been reviewed there, and I've been in business here, and I know this person." Nobody benefits from those conversations other than her. And really, at the end of the day, does she?
Ravenous Rick is just there for the buffet and the booze. That's it. He basically wants to kibitz (as they say in the trade) a little bit, get some drinks and nibbles, and he's happy. Yes, it's all about the food. The ball game is on anyway, and he can fill his belly. If he can chat with people for company, that's fine. But Rick doesn't really want to be bothered about talking about work--his or anybody else's. He will make small talk because he knows he should. But Rick really couldn't care less. It's a place to go, something to do, what the heck. If business comes out of it, great. If it doesn't, that's OK--he had a good meal. Pass the pretzels!
All that Blackjack Betty really cares about is business cards. Throwing cards at people and collecting them. She thinks she's in Vegas! So when Betty is at an event, she wants to talk to a lot of people, but not for too long. It's really just about handing a business card to everybody she can. It's barely a conversation. She may say, "I'm Betty, a Mary Kay lady, and this is what I have. Here's my card, and do you have a card?" In Betty's world, that's networking. The name of the game for Blackjack Betty is whoever has the most cards at the end of the event wins. In fact, Blackjack Betty is so caught up in playing cards that she has forgotten to count them or recount them. She'll circle the room again and meet you a second time because she does not remember that she's already met you. Have you ever had anyone do that to you? A successful event for Blackjack Betty is, "Look, I got almost everybody's card. I win." Betty rarely does business with any of these people anyway because she doesn't know enough about them. And what happens with all those cards? She may be crafty or rude enough to put them in her database, reach out through Facebook or LinkedIn, or to add them to her newsletter mailing list. But other than that, she doesn't really know what to do with them.
Silent Sam is someone who doesn't want to be there in the first place! He's the guy who's hanging around at the coffee station. He is shy or at least reluctant to get out there to shake a hand and kiss a baby because he doesn't want to come across as pitchy or salesy. He hopes that other people come to him. But even if that happens, then what? Silent Sam is there under false pretenses. He may be there because he needs to promote his business. Or he's told he needs to be there. He just figures, "If I'm here, maybe something good will happen. Maybe if I collect a card or two, that's good. If I meet somebody, that's good too. Just let the time go by--please." Silent Sam may be an introvert but may not be. Introverts can be great networkers too!
All that Social Susie wants to do is hang out with people she already knows and have a good time. Yes, it's all about socializing. And that isn't all bad. If you want to just go and have coffee with a few pals, there's nothing wrong with that. But the flip side of that is, why are you going to this networking event in the first place? Go to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee-talk with friends. Of course, there should be a social element to networking events and developing relationships with those in your network. But keep your purpose in mind. If the purpose is strictly social, great. If not, consider where you go, what you say, and with whom. Now, there's a lot to Social Susie. It's not that she just wants to have a good time--she may not know how to have a good business conversation. Susie may feel that she'll compromise friendships if she brings business into the discussion. It's not that she wants to appear just social in nature; she just doesn't want to come across as salesy and potentially ruin a friendship. Susie doesn't understand that networking is a way to foster those relationships. It's almost as if she is hiding the fact that she is there for business reasons, and she gets caught up in the hubbub of having fun without knowing how to turn a fun conversation into a business conversation. Can't a business conversation be fun?
Networking Nick knows exactly why he's at an event or in a conversation and what the outcome ought to be. Networking Nick is out to meet people and help them. He is out there to learn something. He is looking for his next venue so that he can do more of the same type of work that he is so good at. Networking Nick is cool! Nick actually loves to network. He sees the value. The networking "switch" is always on for him. And he is typically very successful at what he does. In fact, Nick seems to know everybody and is a natural connector. Networking Nick knows that other people like him, and he chooses to hang out only with other Networking Nicks.
Did you see anyone you know? Or want to know?
You can see that people are so different - complete with varying styles, approaches and mindsets. And they're available as both genders too - Social Susie can just as easily be Social Sal.
I'm not saying that Hard Sell Harry, Social Susie, or any of the cast of characters are necessarily bad people. And you might be any one of these characters at any given point in time. But they may make it more difficult for you to network if you're serious about your business and want to surround yourself with powerful people.
Which one of these faces do you wear?
Once you become more familiar with The Faces of Networking, it won't take you long to recognize them at your next event.
Deal me in!