Intelligent Conversation with Interesting People
Many business leaders confuse the terms networking and connecting, believing them to be synonymous. Even LinkedIn, the world’s most popular networking platform for professionals says that you are ‘connected’ when you add someone, despite in many cases having not met the person face to face.
The term networking has started to have negative connotations in some professional contexts, leading people to question whether or not it is possible to truly connect with others in business.
So should we avoid networking events? Certainly not! The key to building valuable business relationships is attending events with the right attitude: initially, by understanding the difference between networking and connecting.
Networking can be considered a short and simple process. In many cases, it consists of introducing yourself to someone with light conversation, handing out your business card and probably adding them on LinkedIn shortly afterwards.
We have all been there; the impersonal act of collecting and dealing out business cards faster than someone can say their name, with the detectable poker fans displaying a flawless knack of flicking their cards straight into your hands from a metre away with sophisticated aggression.
If you are really skilled, the process can be done in just a few minutes and you may even find yourself placing a new order at your card printing company before the drinks reception.
This is why networking is sometimes considered superficial, or even selfish, making people think “what was the point in me being here? If only my business cards could walk...”
Connecting on the other hand, is more complex. Connecting goes far beyond the forceful slickness of speedy networking. It means spending more time getting to know someone and showing a form of commitment and genuine interest in them as a person as well as what their business has to offer you or you have to offer them.
It could be a case of asking more questions, having a more in-depth conversation and following up afterwards with a friendly email or phone call to organise a time to meet again in the future for coffee. The idea of connecting is learning more about others by listening and of course, remembering what they told you.
All of this may take more time, but it is far more worthwhile. Think of your time connecting with someone as an investment: you gain more from investing your time in just a few people rather than casually acknowledging twelve, because you are far more likely to secure a business relationship or friend after building real connections with those people. Furthermore, connecting generally makes you a more likeable and dedicated person.
We should not despise the term networking though. Networking can sometimes be incredibly useful for expanding your business contacts quickly in a specific field of industry. However, true connections are more likely to help directors develop their careers and become more successful leaders.
The IoD East of England holds a number of interesting events across the region for members and non-members to connect and share their stories. We have therefore decided that our goal for 2019 is to encourage directors to establish more meaningful business relationships by valuing what it means to truly ‘connect’ with others.
The various Mastermind Group events held across the East of England are a perfect example of IoD members connecting to support and encourage their peers and likewise receiving the support and encouragement of others.
So good luck, and happy connecting!