Director Unimenta
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Networking between people
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The lost art of networking

by
14th Oct 2016
Director Unimenta
Columnist
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I recently went to a conference in India and attended another event in Bangladesh. Great networking opportunities.

At both I couldn’t help but notice the proliferation of business card exchange that was going on.

I found myself joining in and doling out my own card as well as adding loads to my now very large stash sitting on my desk.

Truth is, I’m actually fairly unlikely to do anything with these contacts and they will join the others I’ve collected over the years.

Yet we still engage in this mindless exchange.

But what I have noticed is a pattern to networking successfully.

And it is this: it’s definitely not enough to have a brief conversation during such an event and press cards into each other’s hands.

Nor to be introduced to others and do the same thing.

Nor even to “follow up” said contacts with a friendly email.

Networking today requires us to bring and be our best selves.

No, there has to be a deeper REASON to connect, to engage. A strong reason.

And that is only going to happen if you create a real spark with someone.

That spark may well have nothing to do with work or why you are both at the event.

It may have nothing to do with what you can offer them or potential areas you might work in together.

It has everything to do with you as a person, your warmth, your personality, your ability to chat and make conversation precisely without an agenda.

Networking has changed and yet we need to build our networks now more than ever.

We live in an environment of constant information exchange.

If that information is not worthwhile to us in that moment, it is irrelevant.

There has to be a deeper REASON to connect, to engage. A strong reason.

Think about how much information you’re bombarded with each and every day, how many emails, likes and shares – chances are you delete most of this UNLESS it is meaningful or has come about through a relationship you trust and respect.

Everything is about people and nurturing relationships.

And that is only going to happen by being yourself. Networking has become thoughtful and is all about engaging and learning.

Most of the time at conferences and events people have their head in their Smartphone or tablet – that alone makes it quite hard to create a spark or connection.

And it’s equally hard when a conversation becomes transactional or ends up being purely an exchange about what the respective parties “do”.

Everything is about people and nurturing relationships.

What I’ve found instead though is that the people I’ve actually really connected with after these events are those I’ve genuinely liked (in person, not on Facebook!).

Those I’ve shared some fun conversation with as well as meaningful talk where we’ve discussed interesting aspects of our work.

Those where we’ve discussed things that are important to each of us, things that we are passionate about.

That connection post event has tended to be via Twitter or LinkedIn.

And from that opportunities are free to arise naturally and organically.

Those business cards on my desk?

I can’t even remember who most of those people are now.

And I’m unlikely to get in touch with them.

This is not because they are not necessarily great contacts to have but because there is just too much going on, like there is for each of us.

Networking today requires us to bring and be our best selves, to know ourselves and to be able to connect with others with an easy confidence and without an agenda.

To share, engage, learn and be human.

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