By E. Brown

How many times have you been to a networking event and felt that everyone you met wanted something from you? You leave thinking, “I thought this was a networking occasion, not a sales affair.” Maybe, you have been in the other shoes and looked at networking events as a place to dig up sales and business leads. If a person didn’t show interest in what you had to offer, you had no time for them and moved on to the next person/opportunity.

Another way to think of networking events is to think of them as relationship building events. Instead of wanting something from the people you meet – how about wanting something for the people you meet?

Does this concept seem upside-down to you? For instance, why is it we expect people to treat us with respect and show interest in us when we do not reciprocate? This tells something about our motivation, doesn’t it?

So, what are we to do? Certainly, we want networking to be worth our time and effort. We want it to profitable – right?

I suggest the relational approach. Be genuinely interested in others first. Find out what they do and how you can help them succeed. Anne Baber and Lynn Waymon offer several excellent suggestions in their book, Make Your Contacts Count, about building a relational network. Teach your contacts that you can be trusted by letting them see 1) your character, and 2) your competence.

Character
• Be unfailingly reliable
• Meet deadlines
• Go for the win/win solution
• Treat everyone you meet fairly
• Speak well of people even when they are not present
• Collaborate rather than compete
• When something goes wrong, make it right
• Compensate generously for your failure
• Go the extra mile
• Respect other people’s time and possessions

Competency
• Have earned the proper credentials
• Stay at the leading edge of your profession
• Have won praise and awards from your peers
• Take life-long learning seriously
• Are cited as an expert in the trade press or mass media
• Teach or mentor others
• Consult with others to share expertise
• Do the job right the first time
• Handle the “little stuff” with care
• Follow through to make sure you meet or exceed expectations

Next time you come away from a networking event you will be more fulfilled. You will have started numerous new relationships that will pay big dividends in the end. You will experience a good reputation – one who can be trusted, can get the job done, and is looking out for the success of others.

What else could you ask for?

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