Authentic Networking


Collecting a stack of business cards from people you met once at a networking event is not adding any real value to your network. Skip it if you hate it.

I often talk about this, but realized that I have not written about this on my blog, so I wanted to share a few thoughts on growing your network.

Meeting new people

This is the part of networking that many people find difficult, if not paralyzing.  Enjoying the challenge of meeting new people is a strength that the vast majority of people don’t have!

And to make matters worse, many people in addition to being generally uncomfortable with meeting people, feel like building a network is a selfish, shallow, or disingenuous activity.

Sincerity not Numbers

Instead of thinking about networking success in terms of the number of people you meet at networking events, or getting big numbers on LinkedIn or twitter, think about Authentic Networking as making real connections with people that you would actually like to meet.

Then stay in touch with them because you share a real reason to be connected.  This is the way to both grow and build real value into your network.

What do you actually care about?

Set out to meet just one person based on something that genuinely interests or inspires you.  Then you have an authentic connection, and you already have a built-in topic for the discussion.

You won’t get that uncomfortable feeling of engaging a stranger in small talk, or feel like it is shallow or hollow.  And, more importantly, you leave with a real connection that you can build on over time.

I have grown my network significantly over the years, a few people a year, in a very authentic and high value way, by reaching out only to people who have done something that has genuinely interested, impressed, or inpired me, and telling them that they had done so as my way of contacting them.

Here’s how this goes…

You contact them and say:

I [read an article, saw a panel discussion, listened to a webcast]  where you [did something, said something].
I was very interested in [a comment about something you were actually interested in].
The reason I was so impressed was [insert a real reason].
I thought I would connect with you and let you know you had [some sort of positive impact on me]. If there is ever anything I can do to be of service to you, please let me know.

Then once you make a genuine connection, make sure you stay in touch.   Staying in touch with people is the most important part of neworking.  That is how you put value into your network.  Meeting someone new has no value if you then don’t stay in touch!

This is the aspect of networking that I talk most about.  You can read some prior posts on staying in touch:

A note on networking events

This authentic networking approach also can work well at networking events.  Instead of just showing up, figure out ahead of time who is going to be there, do some research, and then set out to meet specific people for specific reasons that actually interest you.

You will be way more comfortable at the event because you will have a sense of purpose, some goals (find and meet these three specific people), and will be armed with something to talk about once you meet them.

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