The Art of Networking
by Raj G. Asava, founder and CEO of Asava Consulting, Inc
Summary: The real reason why the lucky individual is in the right place at the right time is because of his or her network.
The ITServe signature conference, Synergy 2019, is just around the corner. On October 17 and 18, over 1500 CXOs and company founders representing start-ups to well-established IT businesses will descend on Chicago, IL. They will be inspired by renowned speakers and panelists; attend information-rich sessions; and learn about the latest and greatest developments in business areas ranging from strategy, finance, immigration, sales & marketing, all the way to moving up the value chain and becoming a world class IT Services business.
With access to remarkable subject matter experts at this year's ITServe Synergy conference, the biggest value participants can derive is from the opportunity to make new connections while further strengthening existing associations. This clearly requires effective networking.
Now, much has been written about the power of networking. There is a belief in business circles that being at the right-place, at the right time is the reason why individuals land that coveted job or get the breakthrough opportunity to scale their businesses. While it is a correct observation, people tend to forget that being in the right place at the right time is no accident. It is part and parcel of effective planning and networking. The real reason why the lucky individual is in the right place at the right time is because of his or her network.
So how does one go about building their network? Much has been written and presented on this topic - from articles, to books to multi-day seminars. I recommend the following, proven, four-step approach to building, managing and growing personal networks. It is effective because of its simplicity and practicality, and of value because it has delivered results:
- Be There: You cannot build or grow your network by simply operating out of your office and connecting over email, messaging or by phone. These are tools that can help you stay in touch with your network and stay connected. But to build your network, you need to get out and participate in conferences, seminars, programs and related events. This helps you to be in touch with businesses in your industry; people with similar interests; while learning best practices from subject matter experts from other industries.
To build networks, you cannot afford to be complacent or absent. You must keep your ears close to the ground, subscribe to relevant journals and publications. This helps you gain insights into what's happening in your areas of interest and provides you information about opportunities to 'be there'!
- Work the Hall: After taking the first step of getting out and meeting people with common areas of interest, it is time to 'work the hall'. Make eye contact with people, smile and move in when people smile back. Display a genuine interest in wanting to meet the person and getting to know them. Do not be afraid of rejection or disappointed if the person does not reciprocate in the same manner. What do you lose in that case? Nothing! What you may have lost had you not taken the action to meet/ greet the person is, possibly, a once in a lifetime opportunity!
While working the hall, one must be an extreme extrovert, constantly seeking out ways to meet people and figuring out ways to get invited to or attend events that may be of interest to you.
- Keep Moving: Now that you are actively working-the-hall, do not get grounded, 'keep moving'. That is, do not spend significant amount of time with a single person - no matter how important that person maybe. Spending too much time with one person would keep you away from meeting more people, thereby affecting your network building. Moreover, too much time spent with a person you have just met would trigger conversations with little or no planning and may result in you saying things you did not intend to. Your most valuable resource is `time.' Like an organization, you should measure success based on Return on Invested Time (ROIT). Keep checking with yourself how many new contacts you made; how many past contacts out of your network you met again; and build a list of individuals you could not meet but are interested in meeting. Set yourself targets of how many business cards you collected and after the event, measure your performance.
Also, to measure the quality of your network, check how many cards you had taken notes on with additional details about the individuals.
- Follow-up and Follow-Through: Now that you have made several connections and collected dozens of business cards, what next? Well, this is where the rubber meets the road. To make them part of your network, one must 'follow-up and follow-through'. It could be a simple thank-you note acknowledging the meeting you had with your new contact, to forwarding something you had promised to pass on, or sharing information of common interest. Simply put, to grow and sustain a vibrant network one must be an active communicator.
Always be prompt when you respond and keep your communication (which is typically done electronically) open-ended. Give them the opportunity to write back to you. Remember, it is easy to build a network. The tough part is keeping the network alive.
Now that the basics of networking are understood, stop reading and get out there and network. May you find yourself in the right place, at the right time, often. See you at Synergy 2019!