The bell rings, and you start gathering and forming a single line to go back inside. You look around for your friends to make sure you are standing next to them as the teacher opens the door and leads your group back to class. Things were so much simpler back then: you went outside every day after lunch, you played with your friends, and if you were anything like me, you struggled to snuggled to spell words like protein and Mississippi. While on the playground, you were learning a vital skill that people seem to forget every time they go to one of these networking events: how to make friends.
Think back. When you met someone, were the first words out of your mouth, "Would you like to buy my lunch ticket?" No, you found out about the person, what they liked, who their friends were, how fast they could run. You know, all of the important things. This seems like common sense; however, just last week I was at a reception and someone walked up to me and started trying to sell me a new 401K plan. I don't even think she got my name before she started telling me that I needed a better investment plan for my staff.
Now, I am not saying you shouldn't make sure people know what you do and what services you have to offer. But you cannot make friends by telling people what you think they need. Building friendships is a process, and it takes work. For me, the three most important things to building friendships are: be generous, find people you like, and be patient. Sounds pretty obvious, right? Why then, did it take me years to figure this out?
Being generous to me means helping people. I am always looking for ways that I can help the people I meet. Sometimes it is as simple as connecting them to other people who are interested in their product or service. Other times it is listening...