There was a nice column on business networking in the Wall Street Journal a while back by Anne Kadet. Anne states, “On any given night, New Yorkers have their pick of 50-odd networking events. Last week, for instance, you could have mingled with Long Island Techies, Hispanic business owners, professional comedians or ‘Mommies with Babies and Businesses.’ But if you’re not a regular in on the networking circuit, you have to wonder: Does anything ever come of all this sound and fury?”
My own general feeling is that most networking is a distracting, energy vitiating waste of time. (Admittedly I’ve never felt very good at it, kinda like I was never very comfortable at picking up girls in bars.) There is only one form of networking that makes sense to me and that is networking with my peers; that is, networking with fellow CEOs, business owners, and entrepreneurs where relaxed conversations can occur allowing development of relationships in a general atmosphere of collegiality.
But, with that caveat, I wanted to recommend an article my partner David Downey, President of Corporate Rain International, sent me last week authored by an entrepreneur named Greg Peters from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Greg is the founder of The Reluctant Networker and he sets out some rules for networking in terms of law enforcement. His clever article is entitled Don’t Violate These Networking Laws and in it he lists some “misdemeanor” tickets he would give to misguided networkers.
Parking Ticket. This would be issued to anyone at a networking event who chooses to grab a seat at a table without first completing their networking goals. This is a relatively minor offense, but if you get too many of them your networking license can be revoked.
Speeding. Anyone who tried to ask for some benefit which exceeded the relationship that they had established so far would be in danger of receiving one of these bad boys. The most egregious offenders would be the folks who ask for a high-level referral five minutes after meeting someone.
Passing in a No Passing Zone. Handing out your card when the other person didn’t specifically ask for it is another of those minor offenses that the networking police are watching for.
Not coming to a complete stop. The social butterflies (or social climbers) who are always looking for someone better to talk to (or be seen talking to) collect the largest number of these citations. Part of the networking officers’ training is to watch for the tell-tale “looking over the other person’s shoulder” which usually indicates an infraction in progress.
Networking while trying to influence. NWI’s are the nice way of saying that instead of networking and trying to establish new long-term relationships, the perpetrator in question was trying to sell. This is definitely one of the more serious violations.
Illegal “You” turn. The networker who earns this ticket has a problem. They only want to talk about themselves. Whenever the conversation drifts to the other person, they try to turn the “you” back into “me.” Violators of this particular statute soon discover that they are alone on the road since no one can hang around for long with the conversational whiplash their networking can cause.
Thank you, Greg Peters.